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Old Worlds for New 

A Study of the Post-Industrial State 


Arthur J. Penty 

Author of "The Restoration of the Guild System' 


First published in /y/7 

(All rights reserved) 

Bus. Admin. 

E. T. 



THE scope of this volume is suggested by its 
title : Old Worlds for New; a Study of the 
Post-Industrial State, for it suggests at once the 
paradox which lies at the centre of our social 
life that in order to go forward it is necessary 
to look back. This truth, which was apparent 
to many in the period before the war, is more 
apparent to-day. It needs little insight into social 
and political questions to realize that the war 
marks the close of an era in our civilization, 
and that the task of social reconstruction can no 
longer be delayed. After the war, when the 
artificial and unnatural prosperity which we now 
enjoy is over, all the glaring contradictions of 
our civilization will stand out before us, naked 
in their ugliness, and woe betide us if in that 
supreme crisis the mind of the nation is still un- 
prepared. For no despot alone, however great, 
can save society. The success of any measures 
which he might initiate for the public good is 
conditioned and limited in every direction by the 
general level of thought and intelligence of the 
community . 

Recognizing, then, the extreme gravity of the 


situation and the importance of meeting the im- 
pending crisis with well ascertained and clearly 
defined principles, I am seeking now, by the 
publication in book form of a series of articles 
written for the Daily Herald in the months 
immediately preceding the outbreak of war, to 
secure a wider recognition for certain fundamental 
principles of social organization which in our day 
have fallen into desuetude. Their revival, I am 
convinced, must precede the task of social recon- 
struction. The experience of the war has not 
shaken, but has confirmed, my belief in their truth ; 
indeed, the war itself I cannot but regard as 
evidence in support of them. It is the inevitable 
catastrophic ending of a society which has chosen 
to deny the law of its own being. 

Though the text of the articles has been revised 
for publication in a more permanent form, it 
remains substantially unaltered. Owing to the 
outbreak of the war the series came to a pre- 
mature end ; and in consequence the last four now 
appear for the first time. As the reader will 
gather from the first article, they were written as 
an attempt to formulate a new policy for that 
section of the Socialist movement which was losing 
its faith in the all-sufficiency of the gospel of 
Collectivism. As such they failed in their more 
immediate purpose. By general consent a system 
of Local Guilds which I advocated was deemed 
not immediately practicable. With that decision 
I am in full accord. Nowadays I can see only 
too clearly that the gulf which separates such a 


system from practical politics is, at the moment, 
too wide to be bridged, and that the National 
Guild policy, with its demand for the abolition 
of the Wage System, is the one for to-day. But 
National Guilds can have no finality about them. 
Once the workers find themselves in the pos- 
session of industry the fundamental contradic- 
tions which underlie industrialism will demand 
a solution, and that demand will set us on 
the road to Local Guilds. " The old ideas," once 
said Mr. Chesterton, " are coming in again ; but 
they are coming in walking backwards." That 
is the way in which the Guild idea advances to- 
day. Under the guise of National Guilds, a step 
backward is being taken by men who for the 
most part fail to realize that industrialism is 
doomed to dissolution and decay. 

For my changed attitude on this issue the war 
is responsible. Hitherto I had supposed that 
society was to be reconstructed by peaceable means 
at any rate under the normal conditions which 
peace presupposes r-for though I recognized the 
possibility of revolution, it did not appear to me 
to be in any way imminent. Under such con- 
ditions the National Guild proposal, to carry the 
citadel of capitalism by assault, appeared to me 
to be rather impracticable. Capitalism, I thought, 
would have to be undermined ; it would never 
yield to a frontal attack. But the war has altered 
the factors of the problem. Capitalism no longer 
appears impregnable. Indeed, I feel the war by 
its reactions will break it up, and in all proba- 


bility precipitate a revolution. In this light the 
National Guild propaganda acquires a new sig- 
nificance. The fact of the war has brought it 
within the range of practical politics, for what 
was impossible in times of peace may be possible 
in a time of revolution. 

Meanwhile political development tends to con- 
firm my belief in the truth of the old principles of 
social organization. Considering that these prin- 
ciples are antipathetic to those of Collectivism, 
and that the State is to be seen everywhere in- 
creasing its hold that railways, shipping, endless 
factories and coalfields have come under Govern- 
ment control, and that it is more than probable 
that circumstances after the war will increasingly 
compel the State to interfere in the management 
of industry, it may not unreasonably be asked 
what grounds I have for 'such confidence. To this 
I answer that, apart from the coalfields, which may 
eventually be nationalized, and to State ownership 
of natural monopolies, to which there can be no 
objection, it will be seen as the present scheme 
of things unfolds that this State activity does not 
tend towards the collectivization of industry, but 
towards a revival of the Guilds. That confusion 
should exist on this point is due to the fact that 
all State action in relation to industry has quite 
unreasonably come to be regarded as Collectivist. 
Such, however, is far from being the case. 
Whether Governmental interference with industry 
is to be regarded as Collectivist or not, all depends 
upon the nature of the interference itself. If its 


aim be to take the direction of industry out of 
private hands and to place it in the hands of 
officials, then it is Collectivist ; but if, on the 
contrary, its aim be to protect the public or the 
workers against capitalist abuses, then the State 
is merely resuming the functions which in the 
Middle Ages were performed by the Guilds, and 
which in the future will be performed by the 
revived Guilds. Once embarked upon a policy 
of regulating prices the State will, as the system 
extends, find itself compelled to seek the re- 
creation of the Guilds in order to give practical 
effect to its intentions. 

Fixed prices, then, is a path to the Guilds. 
This is a certainty, for in this connection history 
is repeating itself. It was to guard society against 
the evils of an unregulated currency that the 
Guilds were instituted in the past. The Guild 
legislators realized that a currency, when unregu- 
lated, lent itself to manipulation for profit, and 
being determined to restrict currency to its legiti- 
mate use as a medium of exchange, they sought 
a remedy in fixed prices. Once grasp the 
economic necessity of fixed prices and the whole 
range of Guild regulations becomes intelligible. 
In order to fix prices, it becomes necessary to 
maintain a standard of quality. As a standard of 
quality cannot be defined finally in the terms of 
law, it is necessary, in order to uphold a standard, 
to place authority in the hands of craft masters 
a consensus of opinion among whom constitutes the 
final Court of Appeal. In order to ensure a 


supply of masters it is necessary to train appren- 
tices, to regulate the size of the workshop, hours 
of labour, the volume of production, and the like. 
The first link in this chain of economic necessity 
has already been forged, the rest is only a matter 
of time. 

The force which is driving things in this direc- 
tion is, at the moment, "- rising prices." After 
the war other forces will make themselves felt. 
The tendency to-day towards servile conditions 
of labour has its counterpart in the growth of 
" industrial unrest," and it needs but the unem- 
ployed problem which will follow the war, if 
not immediately, then in a year or two, to open 
wide the floodgates of anarchy and revolution. 
Confronted with this, our statesmen will be help- 
less, for they lack any comprehension of the 
problem of our society as a whole. Politicians 
have for so long been concerned with secondary 
things in society, while discussions of primary 
and fundamental principles were at such a dis- 
count, that they are without the mental equipment 
which a great crisis demands. Evidence of their 
lack of grip on reality is forthcoming on every 
hand. Though they realize that the demobili- 
zation of the forces and the closing down of the 
munition factories will bring upon us an unem- 
ployed problem on an unprecedented scale, and 
though they are proposing certain measures for 
coping with it, they yet remain for the most 
part unconscious of the real peril that confronts 
them, consoling themselves with the comforting 


thought that, bad as things are likely to be, the 
dislocation of industry will only be temporary, 
and that the unemployed problem will tend to 
disappear before the anticipated revival of trade. 
That there are real grounds for any such 
optimism is to be doubted. That trade will not 
revive after the war may perhaps be difficult to 
prove, but there are many reasons for believing 
that such will be the case. It would appear that 
the limits of industrial expansion (a further in- 
crease of which is essential to a revival of trade, 
if industry is to remain on its present basis) 
was reached before the war ; and that the war 
itself was the direct consequence of the economic 
impasse which had been created. Professor 
Hauser ' tells us in this connection that in Ger- 
many the ratio of productivity, due to never- 
slackening energy, technique, and scientific de- 
velopment, was before the war far outstripping 
the ratio of demand. Production was no longer 
controlled by demand, but by plant. What the 
Americans call overhead expenses had increased 
to such an enormous extent that no furnace could 
be damped down and no machine stopped ; for 
the overhead expenses would then eat up the 
profits, and the whole industrial organization come 
crashing down, bringing with it national bank- 
ruptcy. To avert this impending catastrophe, the 
Germans chose to resort to war. .We miss the 
lesson which this war should teach us, If we think 

1 Germany's Commercial Grip of the World, by Professor 
Hauser (Eveleigh Nash). 


that their watchword, " World power or down- 
fall," was merely the product of a 'diseased 
imagination. The truth is, it had become for 
them an economic necessity. It was a desperate 
effort to escape from the consequences of un- 
regulated machine production. 

I insist upon a frank recognition of this fact, 
for our natural and justifiable disgust at the 
arrogance of Prussian militarism appears to have 
entirely blinded us to the ugly economic facts 
which lay behind the war. The anti -climax in 
which unregulated production in Germany had 
ended would, apart from the war, not only before 
long have overtaken us, but the whole of .Western 
civilization. For industrialism was everywhere 
travelling along the same road, and I do not 
exaggerate when I say that so far as our welfare 
and happiness are concerned, it is a matter of life 
and death with us that this fact should be publicly 
recognized. If discussion to-day is to be taken 
as any indication of the policy which we are to 
pursue after the war, we appear to be heading 
blindfold to disaster. Nowhere do I see any 
recognition of the ugly fact that the industrial 
system has reached its limit of expansion. On 
the contrary, our policy for after the war, a cynic 
might say, is to make bad worse to reproduce, 
in fact, in an intensified form, the very conditions 
which have brought the war about. 

The economic isolation of Germany, on which 
our faith for the future is based, is to be recom- 
mended just to the extent that it is in the interests 


of every country to be as self-contained as pos- 
sible. But such a policy fails to touch the central 
issue of over-production, which will be staring 
us in the face after the war. 1 It is admitted that 
we shall have to face a decreased purchasing 
power among all the belligerent nations. This 
of itself is sufficient to precipitate catastrophe, 
when we remember that our industries can only 
be made to pay on the assumption that we can 
dispose of our goods in ever increasing quantities. 
But where shall we be if the advance guards of 
industrialism get their own way with their policy 
of still further extending the volume of production 
by increased specialization? Clearly it can only 
make matters worse. Such a policy, instead of 
helping us to solve our unemployed problem, can 
only intensify it. For the organization of industry 
on a basis of " scientific management " will not 
increase, but decrease the demand for labour. 2 
The old Manchester School doctrine that a reduc- 
tion of prices (at which this policy aims) will 
be followed by an increase of demand will not 
hold good after the war, because it presupposes, 
among other things, that the major part of the 
nation is already in employment. 

1 This problem will be aggravated by the shortage of 
shipping which is resulting from the submarine campaign 
and will popularly be entirely ascribed to it. 

3 In the Minority Report of the Poor Law Commission Mr. 
and Mrs. Webb say : " There is no denying that nowadays 
machinery is displacing labour." If this was true before the 
war, how much more so will it be after it, quite apart from 
" scientific management." 


Such, then, is the dilemma which will confront 
us, and I should imagine that the only conclusion 
to which any rational person could come would 
be that, if going forward can only lead us to 
further disasters, we must make up our minds 
to go back. How long it will take us to 
swallow our pride and come to that decision 
I do not know ; but come to it finally we 
must, for there is no alternative. What I fear, 
however, is that instead of courageously facing 
the issue in a bold and constructive way, such as 
a frank recognition of the fact that the days of 
unregulated production are over might beget, we 
shall stupidly pursue a dual policy of seeking on 
the one hand by labour-saving machinery and 
" scientific management " to reduce the wage bill, 
and on the other to deal with ; the consequent 
unemployment by means of State subsidies and 
private philanthropy. The result will be that we 
shall get nowhere in particular, or, what is more 
than probable, that we shall embark on new mili- 
tary enterprises in a vain endeavour to restore to 
society some of the apparent prosperity which 
accompanies the war to-day. 

I said that if further disasters are 'to be averted, 
we shall have to make up our minds to go back. 
But, comes the question, how? The answer is 
simplicity itself by the reversal of our economic 
policy. To the popular mind such a reversal 
connotes nothing more than the abandonment of 
the principles of Free Trade in favour of Pro- 
tection. But the issue of Free Trade and Protec- 


tion is not the central issue. Like all the issues 
in current politics, it is on the circumference of 
things. Free Trade or Protection will not of 
itself effect a fundamental change. The rich will 
still continue to invest their surplus wealth for 
further increase on the assumption not only that 
their private fortunes will be thereby enlarged, 
but that such investment gives employment. One 
hundred and fifty years ago, when this doctrine 
was 'first enunciated, there was perhaps something 
in it. But it certainly is not true to-day, when 
the investment of surplus wealth for further in- 
crease in most cases has the very opposite effect. 
It decreases employment, and it decreases it 
because the aim of most new business 'enterprises 
to-day is to supplant the man by the machine. 
It does not to-day increase the national wealth, 
but the overhead expenses of industry, which, by 
making our industrial system more and more top- 
heavy, renders it still more unstable. 

Viewed in this light the reversal of our economic 
policy means that, instead of concentrating our 
energies on the increase of supply while leaving 
demand to take care of itself, we should aim at 
maintaining a balance between demand and 
supply ; and the way to adjust this balance to- 
day is to advise people not to re -in vest surplus 
wealth, but to spend it in the way it was the 
custom to spend it before the introduction of 
machinery and the limited liability company made 
possible constant reinvestment. To advise rich 
people to use their money in this way will doubtless 



appear to many to be a counsel of perfection 
which will not be listened to. But I am no 
pessimist in the matter. In the first place, because 
I believe a great proportion of the rich to-day 
reinvest rather than spend their money, not from 
any particular motive of gain, but because it 
is the custom ; and in the next, because the 
remainder will find after the war that the only 
way to secure themselves against personal violence 
is to use their money for the direct purpose of 
giving employment. 

In the past surplus wealth was spent, among 
other things, upon the crafts and architecture, 
for building was never expected to pay. In 
this connection it may be interesting to quote 
the words of Pericles, who, in answer to some who 
complained that Athens was over-adorned like a 
woman wearing too many jewels, replied that 
surplus wealth was best spent upon such works 
as would bring eternal glory to the city and at 
the same time employ her artificers. I might 
add that many of the Greek Temples were built 
to find a solution to unemployed problems. 

kWhile at one end of the industrial scale our 
policy should be to get money spent freely on 
architecture and the crafts, thinking of architecture 
in the broadest sense as including all good build- 
ing, at the other end agriculture should be revived. 
I feel little disposition to enlarge upon this issue, 
because I feel that it is going to be done, though 
perhaps from a different motive. Suffice it, how- 
ever, to say that it is vital for the solution of our 


problems that the agricultural worker should be 
paid a wage equivalent to that of the industrial 
worker. Let us break for ever with the com- 
mercial tradition that useful work should be badly 
paid, for there is no more fruitful source of corrup- 
tion in our midst than the knowledge that it is 
only by humbug and pretence that a man can 
escape from poverty. 

It remains for me to thank the Editor of the 
Daily Herald for permission to reprint such of 
the articles as appeared in his journal, and the 
Editor of the New Age for permission to reprint 
part of this preface. 

A. J. P. 


January 1917 



PREFACE . . . . . .7 

























WEALTH ...... 163 



XXV. CONCLUSION , . . l8l 



To one who is accustomed to view political 
activity from the somewhat detached and isolated 
standpoint of the social philosopher, there is 
something pathetic, not to say tragic, about the 
way Socialists are quarrelling among themselves 
to-day. And this not merely because capitalism 
is secure so long as they are content to con- 
sume their energies in mutual recrimination, but 
because Socialists themselves fail for the most 
part to discern clearly the root of the mischief. 
Abuse was at the beginning poured upon the 
Labour Party for its lack of courage and its 
inability to shape out an independent line of 
action. Nowadays, 1 those who acted more 
courageously are being made to suffer. It looks 
as if the experience of the French Revolution, 
when each group of reformers and enthusiasts 
was in turn supplanted by a group holding still 
more extreme views, is about to be repeated 

1 March 1914. 


in miniature within the ranks of the Socialist 
movement. And it is possible that the reform 
movement to-day, like the French Revolution, 
may suffer a reaction. 

Meanwhile, the most extraordinary thing in 
the whole situation is that few appear to have 
connectefl these quarrels with certain fundamental 
contradictions involved in Socialist theory. It 
is possible for a man to be consistent and 
courageous if he has behind him a consistent 
theory, but impossible if the theory be a bundle 
of contradictions. A man may not perceive such 
inconsistencies in theory, but he will, nevertheless, 
not escape being involved in them when he 
attempts to reduce them to practice. Such in- 
consistencies will paralyse his will, and a man 
who acted courageously at one time of his life 
will, to all appearances, tend to act like a coward 
at another. For when he is called upon to 
reduce such theories to practice, his policy will 
become involved in contradictions. 

Such, it appears to me, has been the un- 
fortunate fate of all our Socialist politicians, and 
I think we ought to be more generous in our 
criticisms of them. One and all find themselves 
in a false position to-day, and this not because 
of any particular moral delinquency, such as in 
our moments of disgust we are apt to ascribe 
to them, but because they have been committed 
to a theory which, to use an Americanism, " does 
not pan out." It will be my object in this 
and the succeeding articles to explain the nature 


of these contradictions of the Collectivist theory 
as a preliminary towards the formulation of a' 
new Socialist policy. 

On all sides we are being told to-day that 
Collectivism is dead. Superficially considered, 
in one sense that is true. The impossibility 
of creating a new social order purely by means 
of political action is widely realized. Economic 
power precedes political power is the new dogma 
to which nowadays we are asked to subscribe. 
Bureaucracy has been discovered to be a potential 
instrument of class oppression. Syndicalism and 
National Guilds are united in demanding the 
right of the producer to a share in the control 
of industry as opposed to control by the con- 
sumer, which was the faith of Collectivism. But 
that is as far as things have r gone. Funda- 
mentally most Socialists are Collectivists still. 
They have not yet thrown overboard its philo- 
sophy, and not until it is repudiated root and 
branch can there be any hope of the growth 
of Socialist unity. In a word, Collectivism as 
an immediate policy is now fortunately dis- 
credited, but as a philosophy it survives sub- 
consciously in thought, and for that reason it 
still controls the destinies of the movement. 

To understand any such theory as Collectivism 
it is necessary in the first place to understand 
exactly the circumstances which brought it into 
existence. We have moved so far away from 
the thoughts of the 'eighties that it is difficult 
for us to realize what ideas it 'sought to supplant. 


In those days almost everybody believed in 
competition as the only safeguard against 
monopoly. The rights of the individual and of 
property took precedence of the rights of the 
community. In fact, the idea that the com- 
munity might have a corporate life was non- 
existent. The Collectivist theory was gradually 
evolved from, the necessity of combating such 
ways of thinking rather than from the funda- 
mental needs of social reconstruction. In the 
early days of the Socialist movement there was 
a great struggle between William Morris and 
Mr. Sidney Webb 'and their supporters in respect 
to the policy to be pursued. Morris was un- 
doubtedly right in the position he took up, because 
he went back 'to the fundamental needs of human 
nature. Mr. Webb, however, triumphed within 
the movement because he was more practical 
in the immediate sense, though, as I shall show 
later, he was fundamentally unsound. He per- 
ceived more clearly than Morris the immediate 
work which might be done. He compromised 
with things as they are, and he could do this 
because he was blind to certain defects of the 
present system. Morris saw in industrialism a 
great ugly fact which produced shoddy goods 
and sweated the workers, and he knew that these 
things had a common cause. Mr. Webb, on 
the other hand, without the fine aesthetic per- 
ceptions of Morris, saw only the sweated workers. 
He thought he could find a remedy for sweating 
as a separate and detached issue and accepted 


industrialism as an established fact in th'e belief 
that it might be humanized. He was successful 
within the movement because the majority had 
not then begun to suspect industrialism, for the 
gulf which separated Morris from the masses 
was in his day too wide to 'be bridged. 
Before that was possible much spade-work had 
to be done, and the theory of Collectivism as 
evolved by Mr. Webb proved to be the only 
available instrument for the purpose. 

What we are witnessing to-day in the con- 
fusion in which the Socialist movement is 
involved is the break-up of this compromise, 
first in regard to policy, and second in regard 
to theory. When the Labour Party arrived at 
the House of Commons, great things were 
expected from it. Disappointment followed. The 
reason is, as I have already pointed out, that 
they were in a false position and committed to 
an impossible theory. That theory in turn is 
now being exploded. I will not refer to the 
Syndicalist and National Guilds propaganda, 
which have assailed it from without, for we now 
have evidence that it has utterly broken down 
from within. The last two years the Fabian 
Society has been engaged in collecting data for 
a report on the control of industry. 'Last month 1 
the New Statesman published the draft of the 
first part of the report written for the Research 
Committee by Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Webb, as 

1 The Control of Industry, New Statesman Special Supple- 
ment, February 14, 1914. 


a special supplement. We find there what many 
of us expected a proposal to reorganize 
industry on a basis of " speeding-up." Of 
course it is not called " speeding-up." Mr. and 
Mrs. Webb are more diplomatic than that. They 
call it " efficiency " and " discipline," but there 
is no mistaking their meaning. Criticizing the 
Nelson Self-Help Manufacturing Society, they 
say, in respect to the comparatively low output 
of the society, that " in private factories, failure 
to produce the average is followed by dismissal. 
In this society the workers, feeling assured that 
no such course will be followed, work easily, 
pay no regard to the possibility of a division 
of profits if greater effort were to be put forth, 
regard themselves as having a job for life, and 
take their work in a leisurely fashion." 

Reading this, we are not surprised to find that 
their sympathies are entirely with the Co-opera- 
tive Productive Societies, where " speeding-up " 
evidently obtains. For, they tell us, " these 
societies, having become attached as subordinate 
adjuncts to Co-operative Societies of Consumers, 
are not subject to the special drawbacks of 
Associations of Producers, inasmuch as the Co- 
operative Societies of Consumers furnish all the 
capital required and supply a Committee of 
Management who do not work in the workshops. 
They govern, and thus the manager finds in 
the committee the support he needs for the 
maintenance of discipline." There is no more 
to be said 1 Collectivism is bankrupt. It never 


presumed to be an artistic ideal. It has ended 
in not even daring to be a human one. The 
Anti-Socialist who told us that Socialism left 
human nature out of account stands justified. 
Mr. and Mrs. >Webb evidently support him. If 
this report is to become the democratic pro- 
gramme of the future, the movement will have 
to take down its banner on which is inscribed 
" Government of the people, by the people, for 
the people," and put in its place " Exploitation 
of the people, by the people, for the people." 
For this, in substance, is what the report 


I HAVE drawn attention to the bankruptcy in 
which Collectivist theory finds itself nowadays, 
and showed how, commencing with a compromise 
with industrialism, it has ended in a shameless 
advocacy of the reorganization of industry on 
a basis of " speeding-up." There are certain 
interesting questions which arise immediately out 
of this miscarriage, which I now propose to 

Now it is in the first place to be observed that 
although Mr. and Mrs. Webb endorse "speeding- 
up " in their report on the control of industry, 
if rumour is to be credited, there is little chance 
of the report being adopted by the Fabian 
Society. Whatever the faults of the Fabian may 
be, he is, generally speaking, a humane person, 
and when a clear and definite issue presents 
itself, as it does in this case, as to whether 
Socialists should or should not approve of 
" speeding-up " in industry, there can be little 
doubt as to which way his opinion will go. I 
do not believe that the gentle persuasiveness of 
Mr. Webb will prevail against the sentiment of 



the society on this occasion. All the same, 
Mr. Webb has reason on his side. What he 
recommends may be inhuman, but it is the 
logical deduction from Collectivist doctrine, and 
the Fabian Society must find itself in the position 
of either adopting this report or repudiating 
the theory of Collectivism. This is, of course, 
if logic is to prevail ; for if it be true, as 
Collectivists affirm, that the evolution which is 
taking place in industry is from a lower to a 
higher plane of perfection, then it follows 
logically that the phenomenon which accompanies 
such a transition is justifiable. I can see no 
escape from this dilemma for such as accept 
the Collectivist position. To quote a popular 
phrase, " You can't eat jyour cake and 
have it." 

It is not necessary for me to review all the 
arguments by which Mr. Belloc showed that the 
trend of modern legislation, based upon Col- 
lectivist ideas, is towards the establishment of 
the Servile State. Only Servile Socialists, who 
are destitute alike of the sense of liberty and 
human dignity, will be found to deny it. The 
point which I wish to make here is that we shall 
not escape from this fate merely by protesting 
against it. If we are to ward off the Servile 
State, it will be necessary for us to understand 
exactly the nature of the forces which are 
alluring us to our enslavement. To grapple with 
these forces we shall have to relinquish many 
prejudices, for it is upon our prejudices that 


the Servile State is being built. Foremost 
among them is the prejudice of the modern 
intellectual against all reasoning which is not 
based upon material facts. It is a stupid 
prejudice, because it has this important defect 
that it is impossible with this mental attitude 
to be wise before the event ; for it is not until 
after the event that the facts are available to 
reason upon. People who are wise before the 
event reason from a metaphysical position and 
a knowledge of human nature. This is natural, 
because it is the spirit of man which is the 
creative force in society and is the cause of 
things. Phenomena are the manifestation of the 
spirit in the material universe. To base our 
reasoning on social questions entirely upon 
phenomena, which alone in these days are 
recognized as facts, is to leave out of our 
calculations the most important facts of life. The 
facts of human nature are not to be weighed 
and measured by Fabian investigators, and yet 
they are ultimately the only facts that matter, 
for the good will of men is necessary to the 
smooth working of any social system. By 
reasoning based exclusively upon industrial 
phenomena, it is possible for Mr. Webb to arrive 
at the conclusion that " speeding-up " is a 
necessary stage of economic development. He 
reckons, however, without human nature when he 
expects men to submit to such a tyranny without 
protest ; for a point is reached in the develop- 
ment of tyranny when men will remain quiescent 


no longer. A spirit of restlessness is engendered 
which at any moment may break loose in open 
rebellion and upset purely economic calculations. 
For man has a soul which craves satisfaction, 
and refuses obedience to a system whose only 
aim is to make cotton and buttons as cheaply 
as possible. ; 

Of course it is easy to understand why 
Fabianism should have degenerated in this way. 
In its anxiety to find an immediate remedy for 
the problems of poverty it ignored the claims 
of art and philosophy, not understanding that 
every practical problem has a metaphysical 
problem behind it, and that the needs of art in 
industry are identical with the needs of human 
nature. Further, it is to some extent to be 
explained by the artificial lives which members 
of the Fabian Society lead. Mr. Webb is 
typical. At first as a Civil servant, and then 
as a man of private means, he has lived a 
sheltered life far removed from the storm and 
stress of things, while his legal training was 
the very worst imaginable for intensifying in 
him sympathies which were never too strong. 
And so with respect to the Fabian Society as 
a whole ; it is far too intellectual and too little 
human ever to get at grips with the realities 
of life, while the occupations of its members 
are for the most part of too artificial a nature 
to give them a fund of first-hand experience. 
To be candid, the Fabians are the last people 
in this world to find a remedy for the evils which 



afflict society. They are too much a part of the 
same disease. 

Now it is to be observed that whether a man 
understands human nature or not, he cannot with 
safety leave it outside his calculations. The 
difference between the Fabian and the mystic 
is not that the Fabian has an eye on facts, and 
the mystic has not, but that the Fabian sees 
only the material fact while the mystic sees its 
spiritual significance. In other words, the mystic 
sees the exact relation each separate fact bears 
to the moral as well as to the material universe. 
This arises, of course, from the circumstance that 
the mystic is not only intensely human himself, 
but knows the science of human nature, which 
is what we understand by a metaphysical position. 
The mystic, because of this knowledge, inter- 
prets facts in a different light in the light of 
that higher unity which alone can reconcile 
apparent contradictions. In practice he will differ 
from the Fabian in this way that he will not 
seek to establish principles by the mere aggrega- 
tion of facts. He knows that really fundamental 
principles are not to be discovered in this way. 
On the other hand, he perceives in every fact 
the workings of a universal principle. Like 
Blake, he feels 

A dog starved at its master's gate 
Predicts the ruin of the State. 

The reason why he knows this is because at 
the back of his mind there is a conception of 


order, which enables him to distinguish clearly 
between what is an accidental and what is a 
permanent factor in human affairs. The Fabian, 
on the other hand, not finding this order within 
himself, and yet at the same time feeling the 
need of order, seeks to discover certainty in the 
external order of phenomena. Being without 
exact standards of truth, goodness, and beauty, 
he comes to accept as standards such things 
as speed, bigness, 'quantity, and success, which 
henceforth he regards as the touchstones of 
" efficiency." The mystic knows all this to be 
pure illusion and the Fabian finds it out too ; 
for he tends daily to become more and more of 
an opportunist, and to settle each question as 
it arises without regard to wider issues ; only 
to find his predictions falsified at a later date. 

In The Comments of Bagshot are some obser- 
vations on the influence of statistics, which are 
interesting to quote in this connection. 

Statistics are the clinical thermometers of the modern 
world. There is an incessant taking of temperatures, followed 
by jealous comparison of the resulting records, and every 
patient examines not only his own but every other patient's 
fever chart. This is a chronic source of jealousy and unrest 
in the modern world. It tends at times to an almost insane 
hypochondria, in which the patient declares himself ill 
beyond recovery, though his appetite is enormous and his 
growth increasing. 

The habit encouraged by statisticians of weighing quanti- 
ties, instead of measuring qualities, is most debasing to ideals 
in a modern State. It is habitually taken for granted that a 


nation must be inferior to its rivals if it falls short of them in 
population, territory, or volume of trade. ... Of what use is 
it to cry out on the vulgarity of worshipping wealth, when all 
the great nations and their statesmen and spokesmen de- 
liberately preach to us that the richest among them is the 
greatest ? The chief need of Europe to-day is to recover 
the thought that a country may hold the primacy of the 
world by leading it in ideas and the art of living. But we 
shall not do that till we have shut half the Government 
departments and killed all the statisticians. 1 

1 Comments of Bagshol, by J. A. Spender. 





CONSIDERING the confusion of thought in which, 
at the latter end of the nineteenth century, art and 
philosophy were enveloped, there was certainly 
some excuse for the Fabian Society in disregard- 
ing their claims. But it is different with regard 
to morals. Wihen we remember that twenty years 
before the Fabian Essays were written, Ruskin 
had exposed the fallacies inherent in the divorce 
of economics from morals, it is difficult to absolve 
Fabians from the charge of stupidity in imagining 
that they could afford to ignore his teachings. 
Yet, strange as this may seem, it is stranger 
still that they should have to this day continued 
in the error, when we remember that from the 
very start it has been behind the frequent quarrels 
and splits in the Socialist movement. The split 
over the Boer War provides a convenient illustra- 

It will be remembered that the Boer War led 
to serious divisions within the ranks of the Socialist 



movement. The Independent Labour Party and 
Social Democratic Federation were resolute in their 
opposition to it. But the Fabian Society tem- 
porized for a long time, and after a split, when 
many resigned their membership, the Executive 
issued a manifesto in the form of a booklet by 
Mr. Bernard Shaw entitled Fabianism and the 
Empire. la it the divorce between Collectivist 
economics and Socialist morals first saw the clear 
light of day. In this manifesto Mr. Shaw did 
not discuss the moral aspects of the war. The 
right and wrong of the question did not concern 
him. He accepted the war as an established 
fact or a necessary evil. Small nationalities were 
a nuisance, and had always been a source of 
trouble and difficulty. A United South Africa 
under the British Flag, he told us, was the only 
possible policy to support. That such a union 
should be brought about by the sinister power 
of capitalism did not concern him, as he imagined 
it would be a stepping-stone to the Socialist 

iWe know to-day that such is not the case. A 
United South African Government is now an 
established fact, but the racial troubles have not 
been moderated. 1 Indeed, they seem to be only 
just beginning. What the upshot will be of all 

1 It will be remembered that in February 1914 there was a 
great strike in the Rand, which was terminated by the action 
of General Smuts, who deported the labour leaders and 
brought the Boer farmers into the towns to fire upon the, 


that is taking place there nowadays God alone 
knows. Of one thing, however, we may be sure 
that the war has not simplified the problem, 
and that with the triumph of capitalism the 
Socialist millennium is not any nearer. All the 
same, according to Collectivist economics, Mr. 
Bernard Shaw and the Fabians who supported 
him were in the right, and the Independent Labour 
Party and Social Democratic Federation abanr 
doned their claims to be Collectivist bodies in 
opposing the war. For Collectivism is an economic 
theory, and we are told economics have nothing 
to do with morals. Yet, strange to say, Socialists 
who saw the Boer IWlar as a capitalist war, and 
as something inimical to the interests of Labour, 
nevertheless failed to see the evil inherent in the 
growth of capitalism when war was not in question. 
I remember at the time listening to the conversa- 
tion of a leading member pf the Independent 
Labour Party, deploring the war in one breath 
and in the other rejoicing in the doings of the 
late Mr. Pierpont Morgan, who at the time had 
just organized the Steel Trust of America and 
was attempting the trustification of transatlantic 
shipping. Mr. Morgan, he said, was paving 1 the 
way to the Socialist State. Of course, in one 
sense that is true. The growth of capitalism is 
making men think and is creating the spirit of 
rebellion ; but, needless to say, that is not the 
sense in which our Independent Labour Party 
member meant it. 

I sa,id that Collectivism is an economic theory 


divorced from morals. This is its central weak- 
ness, because in practice it is impossible to dis- 
regard moral issues without feeling a bit of a 
cad. The ordinary decent man will always 
decline to pursue a course of action which is 
morally culpable. And the ordinary man is right. 
In so far as economic considerations have become 
divorced from morals, they are only an encum- 
brance to right action. Two men in the Socialist 
movement, and two only Mr. Sidney Webb and 
Mr. Bernard Shaw have sufficiently transcended 
ordinary human limitations, and have been able 
to base their actions upon economic theory in an 
entirely disinterested way. The ordinary mortal, 
when he bases his action upon economic theory, 
is apt to be on the make. Hence it is that a 
social theory deduced entirely from a study of 
economic phenomena can in practice only exist 
to confuse the issue. Here we have the source 
of the confusion which has followed on the trail 
of the Labour Party ever since it entered Parlia- 
ment. No issue which has ever come along has 
been for it a clear issue between right and wrong. 
The economic theory to which it subscribes has 
always blinded it to the rights and wrongs of 
the issues which confronted it. The triumph of 
Collectivist theory placed Socialists entirely in the 
hands of capitalists. They agreed with the big 
capitalists because on economic theory they had 
no reason to disagree. The capitalist finds in 
Collectivist doctrine justification for his actions. 
What theory could be more acceptable to him 


than one which tells him that sweating is not his 
concern and can only be remedied by the State ; 
and that in so far as he can succeed in ruining 
his competitor, he is but the natural agent of an 
economic evolution which is leading to the millen- 
nium? Can we wonder that he should seek to 
shuffle his responsibility on to the shoulders of 
the State, when we remember that Collectivism 
seeks to exonerate him from all personal responsi- 

The Collectivist idea of holding the State 
responsible for all the ills of society has been 
another source of confusion. For it is apparent 
that the State cannot, in the long run, be better 
than the citizens who compose it. To hold the 
State responsible is finally to hold no one respon- 
sible, because the politicians themselves, who at 
any time form the Government, are only in 
possession of a delegated authority. In a far 
higher degree than capitalists they are the 
creatures of circumstances. They do not control 
the State, but the State controls them. By this 
I mean that they are at the mercy of the bureau- 
cratic departments and their permanent officials, 
for, as Sir John Gorst said, by the 'time a Minister 
has got the hang of things in his department 
his term of office is nearing its close. In the 
State departments no one feels any particular sense 
of personal responsibility, because of the divided 
responsibility which obtains there, which has come 
into existence for the very purpose of preventing 
any particular individual from exercising too much 


authority. If politicians are to act at all, they 
can only do so to-day by availing themselves 
of the services of this unwieldy and impersonal 
machinery, which proceeds automatically, accord- 
ing to the laws of its own growth, and which 
bears no particular relationship to the thoughts 
and feelings of those who form a part of it. 

The Insurance Act will for all time remain the 
classical example of the failure necessarily follow- 
ing any attempt at reform by wholesale measures. 
Mr. Lloyd George is in these days a much -abused 
man. 1 But Collectivists have no right to criticize 
him, for all that he did was to attempt to give 
practical application to principles which they had 
popularized. iWith the Socialist agitation at one 
side of him demanding that something should 
be done, and capitalism at the other as determined 
as ever to exploit men, it is not surprising that he 
failed, for failure must be the inevitable desti- 
nation of reformers who imagine they can find 
a remedy for the evils of poverty by compro- 
mising with things as they are. I do not believe 
that the Act was framed by Mr. George for 
the oppression of the poor, but that such is its 
result in practice admits of no question. 

The underlying cause of all this confusion, in 
the words of a French Syndicalist, is that " you 
cannot at the same time fight the enemy and co- 
operate with him." It is a mistake for reformers 
to have any dealings with the State until such 

1 Needless to say, this was written before the war. 


time arrives as they are capable of bargaining 
with it on equal terms. Meanwhile the best policy 
to pursue is so to consolidate our forces, so to 
clarify our minds, that when we do act we shall 
be able to do so with certainty and precision ; 
and the first step towards this consummation is 
such a thorough overhauling of Socialist theory 
as will banish for ever the contradictions involved 
in its moral, economic, and political theories. 


AFTER explaining the nature of the economic, 
moral, and political confusion which followed the 
acceptance by Socialists of Collectivist economics, 
I concluded the last article by saying that our 
immediate need is such a thorough overhauling 
of Socialist theory as will banish for ever these 
contradictions. tWith an understanding of the 
underlying principles of the Mediaeval Guild 
System, we shall be in a better position to face 
the modern problems. All clear thinking pre- 
supposes some clear and definable standards of 
thought. Just in the same way that definite 
conceptions of the nature of truth, goodness, and 
beauty are necessary to clear reasoning, so the 
Guilds serve the purpose of a standard to guide 
us in our elucidation of the problems of social 
reorganization . 

IWhat, then, is the Guild System? It is the 
system under which industry at all times was 
organized, wherever men were free to co-operate 
together. In Western Europe the Guilds existed 
until the close of the Middle Ages. They fell 



before the economic and political upheavals which 
accompanied the discovery of America and the 
sea route to Asia, which involved as a natural 
consequence the change of trade routes and the 
growth of capitalism. In Asia the Guilds have 
continued down to this day, though they are 
suffering from European competition. In India 
they are in a state of disintegration ; their in- 
tegrity having been undermined by the British 
Government, which deprived them of their 
privileges in the interests of Lancashire manu- 

The idea which underlay the Guild System was 
that men should be organized in groups, and 
that the State existed to facilitate their co-opera- 
tion. In the sphere of industry the natural division 
was that of trades . Each trade had its own Guild, 
and every craftsman was obliged to become a 
member of it. The Guild had a monopoly of 
its trade, and exercised a jurisdiction over its 
members, which was delegated to it by State 
and municipality. The Guild was a centre of 
mutual aid ; it gave assistance to the sick and 
unfortunate ; it regulated wages and hours of 
labour ; fixed prices and the quality of work 
done ; fixed the training of apprentices and 
limited the number of men any master might 
employ. The Cloth Weavers Guild of Flanders, 
which was typical of many, only allowed three 
journeymen to each master. 

There is an interesting description of Guilds 
in the building trade given by Professor Lethaby 


in a lecture on " Technical Education in the 
Building Trades." It runs : 

In the Middle Ages, the Masons' and Carpenters' Guilds 
were faculties or colleges of education in those arts, and 
every town was, so to say, a craft university. Corporations 
of Masons, Carpenters, and the like were established in the 
towns ; each craft aspired to have a college hall. The 
universities themselves have been well named by a recent 
historian "Scholars' Guilds." The Guild, which recognized 
all the customs of its trade, guaranteed the relations of the 
apprentice and master craftsman with whom he was placed ; 
but he was really apprenticed to the craft as a whole, and 
ultimately to the city, whose freedom he engaged to take up. 
He was, in fact, a graduate of his craft college and wore its 
robes. At a later stage the apprentice became a companion 
or bachelor of his art, or by producing a master-work, the 
thesis of his craft, he was admitted a master. Only then was 
he permitted to become an employer of labour, or was ad- 
mitted as one of the governing body of his college. As a 
citizen, city dignities were open to him. He might become 
the master in building some abbey or cathedral, or, as King's 
mason, become a member of the royal household, the ac- 
knowledged great master of his time in mason-craft. With 
such a system, was it so very wonderful that the buildings of 
the Middle Ages, which were indeed wonderful, should have 
been produced ? 

Considerations of space will not allow me to 
enter more into the details of the Guilds, and there 
is no reason why I should. \Vhat I have already 
said is sufficient for the purpose of familiarizing 
the reader with the idea of the Guilds. If he 
is interested in the subject he can read up about 
them for himself, and, in this connection, there 
are two books which I would particularly recom- 

mend. One of them is Mutual Aid, by Prince 
Kropotkin, and the other is The Indian Crafts- 
man, by Dr. Ananda K. Coomaraswamy. Both 
of them are extremely able. Dr. Coomaraswamy's 
book is especially interesting, as he describes the 
Indian Guilds which are still in existence, though, 
as I have already said, they are in a state of 
decline. It is satisfactory, however, to learn that 
of late years a movement has arisen in India to 
preserve them. Prince Kropotkin's book is, 
fortunately, well known to Socialists, and needs 
no words of recommendation from me. 

Two functions engaged the activities of the 
Guilds. One of them was that of mutual aid ; 
the other was the safeguarding of the standard 
of production against commercial abuses. The 
first of these functions is nowadays undertaken 
by the Trades Unions, though the Guilds, being 
wealthy bodies, were able to be much more 
generous in the assistance they gave to their 
members. In fact, the Guilds fulfilled for their 
members those functions which are now under- 
taken by the Poor Law, only they were under- 
taken in a different spirit. This was notably the 
case in the treatment of widows and orphans, who 
were provided for out of the funds of the Guild, 
and that in a manner befitting their station in 
life, not in the despicably niggardly way which 
is customary with Boards of Guardians. This 
came about naturally, it is to be supposed, because 
when men are organized in localized groups they 
are held together by personal and human ties, 


which are real bonds ; whereas the Poor Law 
is, at the best, a piece of impersonal machinery 
for assisting those who have no personal claim 
upon us, but only on the community ; and it is 
not easy for the average person to act as generously 
towards strangers as towards his own kith and 

The other function of the Guilds was the pro- 
tection of the standard in production. With that 
fine instinct for sociological truth which is charac- 
teristic of all early societies, the Mediasvalists 
recognized that the best way to protect the 
standard of life of the craftsman was ultimately 
to protect the standard of quality in craftsmanship. 
This is the vitalizing principle of the Guilds as 
industrial organizations, and it is only by relating 
all their regulations to this central idea that they 
can be properly understood. To protect the 
standard of craftsmanship, it was necessary, before 
everything else, that the craftsman should be privi- 
leged ; for privilege not only protected him from 
the competition of unscrupulous rivals, but it also 
secured him leisure in his work. Both of these 
conditions are necessary for the production of good 
work. Unless a man can work leisurely, it is 
impossible for him to put his best thought into 
his work, and unless a man is protected from 
the competition of unscrupulous rivals, who under- 
cut him in price and jerry their work in the 
unseen parts, it is impossible for him to remain 
a conscientious producer. Experience has proved 
that the public, as consumers, cannot be relied 


upon to check that gradual deterioration in the 
quality of wares which is the inevitable accom- 
paniment of unfettered individual competition. 
Privilege and protection are the corner-stones of 
production for use and beauty, just as much as 
commercialism and competition are the corner- 
stones of production for profit. The fundamental 
difference between the Mediaeval and modern 
polity is that, whereas the modern aims at the 
abolition of all privilege, the Mediaevalist sought 
to secure privileges for all. It is the difference 
between pulling down and building up. 

Finally, it is necessary for me to 'controvert 
one objection which is often made to the restora- 
tion of the Guilds. In order to justify the present 
age, it has been the custom of modernists to mis- 
represent the past. The consequence is that in 
the popular mind the Middle Ages has become 
synonymous with Feudalism, and even then, not 
Feudalism as it really existed-^-for in contrast 
with capitalism, Feudalism was a comparatively 
humane institution^-but misrepresented out of all 
resemblance to the original. It is not my purpose 
to defend Feudalism, but merely to point out 
that Feudalism was all along at enmity with the 
Guilds and Mediaeval cities, and in the struggle 
the Guilds were worsted. Their 'destruction was 
the destruction of real democracy. And the best 
testimony I can bring in support of this conten- 
tion is that of Kropotkin, who says that " most 
of what the Socialist aims at existed in the 
Mediaeval city.' 1 




THE brief account I have given of the Mediaeval 
Guild System will help us in a consideration of 
the proposals of the New Age for its restoration. 
The articles of the Guild writers were originally 
advanced under the name of Guild Socialism. 
Latterly their scheme has been re - named 
" National Guilds," which, I think, is a pity. 
Guild Socialism is a better rallying cry. 

The New Age proposals are shortly as follows : 
The workers are advised to fuse all the Unions 
connected with each separate industry into huge 
national organizations ; and then, after getting 1 
all the workers, including the salariat, to become 
members of these Unions, they should create 
Labour monopolies within each industry. When 
any Union has by this means become blackleg- 
proof, the workers are urged to demand not merely 
higher wages, but superior status ; by which is 
meant, that the workers would cease to sell their 
labour as a commodity in the market, and become 
partners in the direction and control of industry. 



Should the capitalists refuse this demand, then 
a strike would be declared. The Unions being 
thus in a position to hold up industry, and with 
the intelligent public on their side, the State would 
find it necessary to step in. It would buy out 
the capitalists by offering them a reasonable 
sum or by guaranteeing them an income for a 
period of years, retain nominal possession of the 
so -acquired capital, charter the Union (now be- 
come a Guild by the inclusion of the salariat), 
which would henceforth carry on the industry on 
terms mutually fair and favourable. The Guild, 
in return for this charter guaranteeing it privileges 
of national monopoly and self-government, would 
undertake certain responsibilities relating to the 
quality and quantity of goods produced and also 
on behalf of its own members, other Guilds, the 
public at large, and the State itself. This pro- 
posal is supported by an economic theory called 
" The Abolition of the Wage System," which I 
shall consider later. 

Needless to say, I am in perfect accord with 
the general idea of restoring the Guilds. The 
thanks of the Socialist movement are due to the 
New Age for the valuable work it has done in 
securing recognition for the Guild principle as 
the basis of political, social, and industrial re- 
organization. If democracy is ever to achieve 
self-expression, it can only be by men organizing 
themselves into groups. Parliamentary democracy 
as it exists to-day has no organic structure. It 
is merely an aggregation of people who unite 


for some one to represent them in respect to 
issues which are not of their making. The issues 
are so confused that it is almost impossible for 
the ordinary man, who is not in possession of 
inside knowledge, to get the hang of them ; while, 
if he could, he would not be much better off, 
because they are not the real issues. In order, 
therefore, to create the real issues, it becomes 
necessary to break up this aggregation by orga- 
nizing men into groups. The natural divisions 
of such groupings of men are by trades. Though 
the average man is apt to talk nonsense about 
national politics, he can generally talk sense about 
his own trade or occupation. The reason for this 
is because the issues are fewer and he is quite 
familiar with them. Hence, the re-organization 
of democracy on the Mediaeval basis can be fruit- 
ful only of good results. Guild democracy, I airx 
persuaded, is the only real democracy, and if 
ever democracy is to reflect the general will of 
the community and to free itself from the 
machinations of politicians, it will need to revive 
the Guilds. 

So far so good. It is when we pass on from 
a consideration of the end to be attained to the 
means of bringing that end about that I am 
inclined to question the wisdom of the New Age 
proposals. Working upon their lines, I do not 
think it will be possible for the 'State to secure 
possession of the capital in industry, apart from 
the will of the capitalists. For the State is the 
capitalists, I fear that if the State should take 


over the railways, and should take the workers 
into partnership, which is extremely improbable, 
that it would be on terms favourable to the 
capitalists, and because it suited 'their convenience. 
The wealthy would receive their dividends as 
hitherto, but guaranteed by the State ; while the 
control given to the workers would only be 
nominal. They would not be allowed a say in 
the things that really mattered. So again with 
respect to the policy of strikes, which are relied 
upon to bring capitalism to its knees, I doubt 
the possibility of getting the workers, under normal 
circumstances, to strike for superior status, and 
it appears to be the opinion also of men who have 
had practical experience of organizing strikes. 
Men can be induced to strike for higher wages, 
for shorter hours, against some tyranny, or to 
see justice done to a pal, but not for status. 
That is one of the results of the wage-system. 
The average working man to-day is too down- 
trodden to believe he might be successful in de- 
manding such a change. His immediate need 
is for higher wages and shorter hours. These 
are things which, to him, are definite and tangible. 
And, in striking for them, he feels he has a 
sporting chance of success. But superior status 
is a different matter. It is a remote issue, and, 
under normal circumstances, it is to be feared 
he would not entertain the idea of claiming it. 
Before it would be possible for the workers to 
make such a demand, their spirits would have 
to be raised. They would need to be drunk 


with enthusiasm, such as might possibly be the 
case in the event of a general strike, when the 
spirits of the individual worker would be sus- 
tained by the spirit of enthusiasm and rebellion 
which pervaded the whole community. I feel 
justified, therefore, in associating the New Age 
policy of restoring the Guilds with the idea of the 
general strike. 

iWhat, then, are the prospects of changing the 
basis of society, and restoring the Guilds by means 
of a general strike? My opinion is that our 
chances of success are not great. The failure 
of the general strike in Sweden is not encouraging. 
Moreover, the difficulty of controlling any policy 
based upon strikes is very great. When men 
are successful in a strike, they are apt to over- 
estimate their power and to bring about reac- 
tion. The success of the Dock Strike of 1911 
was due to the fact that the masters were unpre- 
pared, the failure of the one in 1912 because they 
were ready. How much greater would be this 
difficulty after a general upheaval it is impos- 
sible to say. Men, when they are flushed with 
success, are not inclined to listen to the counsels 
of moderation, and without moderation they would 
certainly be finally beaten. There is also a 
further difficulty. The workers are not to-day 
united by a common economic bond. There is 
the same division of interests between them as 
there was between the serfs and retainers of the 
Feudal Lords. In our society, probably half of 
the working class are parasitic upon the rich, 


in the sense that they are employed by them, either 
in personal service or in the manufacture of articles 
which only the rich can afford to buy. Mr. 
Bernard Shaw discussed the problem which this 
class of workers presented some years ago in a 
series of articles entitled " The Parasitic Pro- 
letariat " which he contributed to the New Age. 
He could find no solution, though he sought by 
economic abstractions to show that the interests 
of the parasitic proletariat and the proletariat 
proper are ultimately identical. But such abstrac- 
tions are of no assistance to us when dealing with 
concrete issues ; for in times of crisis it is the 
immediate interest, rather than the ultimate one, 
which decides things. If the workers did succeed 
in a general strike, their success could only be 
temporary. To make it permanent they would 
need to deal promptly with this parasitic pro- 
letariat, whose market would be gone with the 
disappearance of the rich. This, I feel, would 
be impossible amid the general confusion which 
would certainly obtain. Revolution would be 
followed by a counter-revolution. The parasitic 
proletariat would rally to the support of the 
wealthy in order to recover a market for their 

Yet I believe a revolution will come. Sooner 
or later it will be forced upon us by the problem 
of over-production. When machinery was first 
introduced, England had the whole world in which 
to dispose of its surplus products. But no nation 
can afford to be a consumer of machine-pro- 


duced goods permanently. The suction would 
drain its economic resources. Hence it has 
happened that one after another of the nations 
which were once our customers have been drawn 
into the vicious circle of commercial production, 
and have become our competitors for markets. 
iWe are rapidly approaching a time when there 
will be no new markets left to exploit. .What 
is going to happen when that limit is reached? 
Surely it can only be economic collapse. Karl 
Marx was right in foreseeing this catastrophic 
ending of quantitative machine-production. .Where 
he was wrong was in supposing that out of the 
unemployed a revolutionary force could be created. 
Unemployed men cannot rebel, for they have no 
economic, political, military, or moral power. They 
are simply demoralized men, who are thankful 
for a meal. It is dangerous to prophesy, but 
it is my opinion, and I give it for what it is 
worth, that when a revolution does come, it will 
come from above and not from below. It may 
come as a result of war, as was the case with the 
Russian Revolution, which followed the war with 
Japan, or by a division in the governing class, 
as was the case in the French Revolution, or 
by a combination of both circumstances. War 
seems to me the more probable because, when 
new markets are exhausted, the governing class 
will be driven into it in order to safeguard their 
own position. But they will probably fail. 1 

1 Looking at this issue from the standpoint of to-day, there 
is a sense in which Karl Marx may be said to have been right. 


Meanwhile it is well to remember that revolu- 
tion is a purely destructive force. Just as the 
French Revolution broke the power of Feudalism, 
and liberated the bourgeois, so the coming; revo- 
lution will break the power of capitalism and 
liberate forces which are germinating in our midst. 
It is for us to educate these forces ; to see that 
the people know which are the real Issues and 
can distinguish between the true and the false. 
If they are able to do so, then reconstruction 
will be rapid ; if not, a period of anarchy may 

The prodigious dimensions of the unemployed problem after 
the war may be such as to precipitate not only revolution but 
the end of capitalist domination. For it is not to be expected 
that a class which to-day fails to appreciate the economic 
significance of the war even to the extent of realizing that the 
limits of industrial expansion have been reached, will be able 
to cope successfully with after-the-war problems. 



IN the last chapter I considered the New Age 
proposal which has been advanced under the 
name of " National Guilds " in its relation to 
the general strike. In this one I propose to 
discuss the theory of " The Abolition of the 
Wage System," by which the Guild writers seek 
to give economic justification for their proposals. 
It is not a new theory, as it finds a place in 
the economic analysis of Karl Marx, but by 
its association with the idea of restoring the 
Guilds it has acquired a new significance. In 
bringing together the two ideas the Guild 
writers have strengthened the case for each : they 
are, indeed, related as the body and the soul. 
What, then, is meant by the demand for the 
abolition of the wage system? It is that in 
the future labour shall not be treated as a 
commodity to be bought by capitalists at the 
current market rale in the same way that goods 
and raw materials are bought ; that the income 
of the workers shall not be dependent upon the 



variations of supply and demand ; and that men 
are not to be only employed when it suits the con- 
venience of capitalists, and turned adrift to starve 
when he can make no profit out of their labour. 
Also, it is a demand that the workers shall have 
status and receive pay instead of wages, the 
difference between pay and wages being that 
men who receive pay, as do soldiers or civil 
servants, receive a fixed income, whereas wages 
as paid to the labourer are not continuous in 
this way, but subject to breaks during un- 

Now, just in the same way that I find myself 
in agreement with the Guild writers, in respect 
to the general idea of restoring the Guilds, and 
yet differ from them in regard to policy, so 
I find similar grounds of agreement and dis- 
agreement when I consider the economic theory 
of the abolition of the wage system. The reason 
for my disagreement is this : That they seem 
to regard the institution of wages as an absolute 
evil, whereas, in my opinion, it is only relative. 
Under the Mediaeval Guild system the journey- 
men and apprentices received what were, 
technically speaking, wages ; but they did not 
suffer from the evils which we associate with 
the wage system to-day, because masters and 
men were alike members of the same Guilds, 
and were bound together by personal and human 
ties. Though wages existed under the Guild 
system, they did not imply the brutal and inhuman 
relationship which they do to-day. For labour 


was not then a commodity, the price of which 
was determined by the competition of the market, 
but was paid for at a fixed rate, determined 
by the Guilds. Moreover, the journeyman only 
remained a wage-earner during the earlier part 
of his life. He could look forward to setting 
up in business on his own account, as a matter 
of course, for as there was a limit placed to 
the number of assistants that any man could 
employ, opportunities for advancement were 
opened to all who desired to use them. The 
wage system, therefore, did not in those days 
present itself as an evil in the way it does 
to-day. 1 It is the growth of large organiza- 
tions, the system of the division of labour, and 
the ever-extending use of machinery that has 
created the evils which we associate with the 
wage system, for under a system of large 
organizations those personal relationships which 
humanize life tend to disappear, and their place 
is taken by a cash-nexus divorced from all 
sentiment and personal regard. It is this which 
makes the wage system to-day so brutal, and 
why we must raise our voices in protest against 
it. But I am persuaded that our efforts will be 
misdirected and fruitless if we merely demand 
its abolition. We shall miss our central aim, 
which is to humanize the relations of society ; 

1 The Statute of Apprentices passed in 1563, which sought to 
establish by law Trade Guild custom, enacted that journeymen 
must be retained in service at least one year, and must receive 
three months' notice of a coming dismissal. 


for pay may be substituted for wages, and yet 
the relations of men may be anything but human. 

There is another reason why we should work 
along these lines. The central weakness of any 
attempt to abolish the wage system by taking 
the citadel of capitalism by storm is that it is 
precisely those trades and occupations that suffer 
most from the evils of the wage system which 
are least able to offer effective resistance to it. 
Railwaymen, it is true, get wages, but their work 
is so regular that in most cases they may be 
almost said to be in receipt of pay. But with 
the workers in the building trades it is different. 
Their work is intermittent, and it is difficult 
to see how it could be otherwise. All building 
jobs come to an end sooner or later. It would 
be futile, therefore, for the workers in the 
building trades to demand pay instead of wages, 
for they would be demanding something which 
the employers would be powerless to give. The 
building trade employers are not like the railway 
companies, in a secure position and able to levy 
tribute on the people, but are dependent for their 
work on a demand which is erratic and impossible 
to gauge. To some extent they are in exactly 
the same position as the 'men, inasmuch as, like 
them, they are constantly in the position of 
having to look around for new sources of work. 
In a word, the employers of the building trades 
could not give the workers status, because they 
have not got status themselves. 

Looking, then, at the problem of the building 


trades and from this point of view it is, indeed, 
typical Lf an enormous number of other trades 
it is apparent that before the workers could 
possibly find themselves in a position to demand 
status it will be necessary to take measures to 
regularize demand. In the Minority Report of 
the Poor Law Commission, Mr. and Mrs. Webb 
ran up against this problem, and recommended 
the establishment of a Central Bureau to attempt 
the regularization of demand for public works. 
In this limited sphere such an arrangement 
might do good, but it is obviously impossible 
to give application to such arrangements on a 
national scale, because the factors underlying in- 
dustrial instability are too many to be controlled 
from without. If this problem is to be solved 
at all, it will only be by attacking it at its 
roots, which we find to be in the instability of 
our tastes, the uncertainty of our aims and the 
confusion of our thoughts. These are the things 
which give rise to irregularity of employment, 
in so far as it is not due to changing climatic 
conditions and other natural causes. It will be 
by seeking to bring order into them that we 
shall gradually bring order into our social 
arrangements ; which problem, I would add in- 
cidentally, we shall never solve until we learn 
to respect the wisdom of the artist and the 
philosopher : it is the key to the whole situation. 
A common source of our confusion is that in 
our schemes for the reorganization of society 
we fail to distinguish clearly between two 


fundamentally different types of industry which 
might be termed respectively the " constants " 
and the " variables." The distinction has 
always, to some extent, existed, but in modern 
industry the " constants " have become more 
constant and the " variables " more variable. 
Latter-day schemes of reform would accentuate 
these differences. They always assume that it 
is possible to make the variables constant by 
means of external arrangements. To my way 
of thinking this is impossible, as it is not in 
the nature of things, and every effort to make 
one section of industry more constant by regula- 
tions can only result in increasing the variability 
of what remains. 

If I have questioned the wisdom of the New 
Age proposals, it has not been without a deep 
sense of obligation to them for the issues they 
have raised. As a generalization there is this 
to be said for the New Age theory : that it has 
focussed attention on the central evils of modern 
society. Collectivism insisted too much on the 
relation of man to his environment : it forgot 
the relationship in which man stands to man. 
The theory of " the abolition of the wage system " 
has raised this central issue. In a perfect 
society every man would be in the right place, 
for men can only co-operate successfully together 
when each man performs the function for which 
by Nature he is the most perfectly fitted. It 
is the eternal problem of society to find ways 
and means of getting the right men into the 

right places. It is this necessity which at 
different times has been the justification of 
different forms of government : monarchy, 
aristocracy, and democracy are each in turn to 
be justified according to the circumstances of 
their age and their constancy to this ideal. In 
our day each of these has a common enemy 
capitalism ; which, as Mr. Chesterton has said, 
44 stands out in history in many curious ways. 
For the most curious fact about it is that no man 
has loved it ; and no man has died for it," 
and yet to-day most men serve it, because it 
is rare in our society to find a man fulfilling 
his proper function. The source of this cor- 
ruption is the growth of the wage system, which, 
treating labour as a commodity to be bought 
and sold in the market, denies to men the right 
and opportunity to use their talents in the way 
that Nature ordained. 



IN the last chapter I insisted that the evils 
which we associate with the wage system to-day 
are not to be found in the institution of wages 
as such, but in the dehumanization of the wage 
relationship which had followed the growth of 
large organizations, the division of labour, and 
the misapplication of machinery. I propose now 
to show that the 'assumption of Collectivists that 
large capitalist organizations are more efficient 
than smaller ones, that they have come to stay, 
and that they may one day pass into the hands 
of the workers, 1 are generalizations entirely with- 
out foundation in fact, and could only have been 
conceived by men destitute alike of practical 
industrial experience and a metaphysical position, 
defects which, as I have previously pointed out, 
are characteristic of the Fabian essayists. 

Of course, I am quite ready to admit there 
are certain kinds of modern industrial activities 
which must in the nature of things be organized 
on a large scale. It is evident, for instance, 
that mining, railways, and engineering do not 

1 See Preface, p, 9. 

5 65 


admit of small-scale organization ; and in so 
far as these are to exist in the society of the 
future, large-scale organization becomes inevit- 
able. Such an admission, however, does not in- 
validate my general position, which is, that in so 
far as the element of choice enters, the small 
organization is to be preferred to the larger 
one, and that small units must be the basis of 
industrial reorganization : just as the admission 
that certain work is perhaps inevitably disagree- 
able does not invalidate the proposition that it is 
desirable to make work as pleasurable as possible. 

With this truth that the smaller organization 
is always to be preferred .firmly planted in our 
minds, we shall be able to minimize the evils 
which are inherent in large-scale organization 
by insisting that every large organization should 
consist of a multitude of smaller ones which 
co-operate together. It is evident, moreover, that 
industry which must be organized on a large 
scale bulks very much larger to-day than would 
be the case in a properly ordered society, and it 
may be that in proportion as society attains, to its 
ideal, large organizations will tend to disappear. 

It 'is to be observed that when the Fabian 
recommends large organizations as the ideal upon 
which industry should be modelled in the future, 
he does not analyse the structure of industry nor 
deduce the principles of organization from it ; 
and this for a very simple reason, he is incapable 
of such analysis. The Fabian Society, as I have 
said before, is mainly a legal, literary, and 


medical society, with very few members who 
have had any industrial experience. The con- 
sequence is, that as they do not understand the 
structure of industry they have become the 
apologists of the large organization, imagining 
in their childish ignorance that what is for the 
moment financially successful is necessarily the 
best. What the Fabian does is to make use of 
sophistry and bluff. He tells us that large 
industries are destined to supplant small ones, 
because they are more 1| efficient." Now 
efficient is an adjective to which no definite 
meaning can be attached. The French have an 
excellent word to describe reasoning of this kind. 
They call it flou. Mr. Belloc has translated 
it for us as wobble-stuff, and when the Fabian 
talks about large organizations being more 
efficient than smaller ones he makes use of 
wobble-stuff, since before it is possible to say 
whether anything is efficient or not it is necessary 
to know the purpose or end which it is to serve. 
On this issue the Fabian has nothing to say. He 
leaves us entirely in the dark as to the ends for 
which large organizations are efficient. It is 
necessary, therefore, that 'I should explain them. 
Large organizations are not more efficient for 
the making of things either useful or beautiful, 
but they are more efficient for the purpose of 
making profits, because it is easier for them 
to make a corner in the market and to speed 
up the workers, and the simplest proof I can 
bring in support of this contention is the historical 


argument that the growth of large organizations 
in industry has coincided with the substitution 
of production for use by production for profit. 
That fact is not only undeniable, but it is equally 
undeniable that it is the desire for profits which 
is the reason for their continued growth to-day. 
But I shall be told that the large organization 
is an established fact, and that though it be 
true that production for profit is the animating 
principle to-day, production for use will be 
substituted for production for profit when these 
organizations pass into the hands of the people. 
This, again, is a piece of Fabian "bluff. It is 
a pure assumption. The wish is father to the 
thought. No reasons have ever been given in 
support of such a contention. And nowadays, 
when the theory of the nationalization of industry 
has broken down, it is less plausible than it 
was, since so long as large organizations obtain, 
it is difficult to see how industry can ever pass 
into the hands of the workers, for the simple 
reason that, apart from the capitalist's activities, 
industry to-day has no organic structure. When 
the capitalist affirms that It is his enterprise that 
keeps things going, I regret to say he is telling 
the truth. Herein lies the condemnation of the 
large industry. So rotten have things become, 
that industry to-day has no life springing from 
its own roots, but has come to depend entirely 
upon an external and artificial stimulus to 
galvanize it into activity from above. Remove 
this artificial stimulus, due to the desire for 


profits, and stagnation would speedily result ; for 
the greater part of our industrial activities have 
no validity apart from 'the desire for profits. 
Exclude the motive of profit from such activities, 
and they would cease to exist. 

The large industry necessarily produces for 
profit because it involves the control of industry 
by the financier ; and there is no test of a 
financier's skill except his capacity to produce 
profits. With the craftsman it is different. He 
has a natural pride and interest in what he pro- 
duces, which is possible to a man who actually 
makes things with his own hands, but which is 
impossible for a man who can only juggle with 
figures. Such interest is only possible for the 
craftsman if he is in business as a small master 
or is under the direct control of a master crafts- 
man who sympathizes with his aims. This in- 
volves small-scale production in small workshops, 
because it is impossible for a man to manage a 
large organization and at the same time to work 
with his hands. The organization of industry 
on a large scale involves class division, 1 and this 

1 In order to avoid confusion, it is necessary for me to 
explain that I am not condemning the class divisions which a 
guild hierarchy implies, but such divisions as involve the 
existence of a class of men without craft traditions who 
specialize in finance, for the existence of such a class will 
always be a peril to society. This peril consists in the domi- 
nation of society by men who think primarily in terms of 
figures rather than of things ; of prices instead of values ; of 
quantities rather than qualities. The Collectivist idea of 
nationalizing industry does not abolish this evil ; it white- 
washes it. 


is the forerunner of trouble. The financial men 
are incapable of understanding the needs of crafts- 
manship. They come to look upon themselves 
as superior beings because they do not soil their 
hands and can dress smartly. This is the secret 
of those feelings of class antagonism which exist 
in industry to-day, and it is out of these feelings 
of class antagonism that there arises the determi- 
nation of the controlling class to drive the men 
in their employ. Hence speeding-up and pro- 
duction for profit. These things are inseparable 
from one another. The sooner Socialists recognize 
the interdependence of large organizations, speed- 
ing-up, and production for profit, the sooner we 
shall find salvation. 

Great as are the evils of large organizations 
already enumerated, there is yet a greater than all 
these. It is this : they tend to destroy liberty, 
and their growth is a peril to personal independ- 
ence. The liberty of a people depends ultimately 
upon the liberty of the individual, and the liberty 
of the individual depends in the last resort upon 
his ability to set up in business on his own account. 
I am assured that it is because this possibility is 
becoming daily more difficult of realization that 
the spirit of liberty is declining in modern society. 
The reformer who lives in constant fear of losing 
his job if he attacks capitalism will, in most 
cases, only be half hearted in hi, attack. A man's 
effectiveness as a reformer is relative to his 
personal independence, and personal independence 
disappears as the large organization holds sway. 


It happens in this way. A man's prospects in 
life come to depend less and less upon himself 
upon his own powers of industry, intelligence, and 
manliness and 'more and more upon his capacity 
to curry favour with those who are his immediate 
superiors, whilst against injustice there is no re- 
dress. That is why in large organizations the 
toady is encouraged, and why men of worth and 
character are apt to be at a disadvantage. WJien 
men of character are found in authority they are 
apt to owe their position to the accidents of the 
system rather than to the system itself. 

It is often said that we are becoming a nation 
of opportunists, and apart from the working class, 
this is largely true. The cause is the growth of 
large organizations. It matters little whether their 
ownership be vested in a private capitalist com- 
pany, in the State, or even in a co-operative 
society. So long as an organization is large, 
a man's future will depend entirely on the favour 
of a single individual who, unless he be a man 
of insight, will inevitably fall into the hands of 
men who, to secure promotion, play up to him 
and bully their subordinates. 

There is but one remedy for this state of affairs 
to get the small holder back into industry, as 
we are seeking to g*et him back on to the land, 
and to limit the use of machinery in a way which 
makes this possible. We are not justified in 
looking upon large organizations as we know 
them to-day as being in any sense of the word 
permanent institutions. Most of them are rickety, 


as is natural when we understand the vices 
inherent in them, for such vices bring about a 
steady demoralization and 'make them increas- 
ingly costly to run. 1 I believe the growth of 
speeding-up is in no small degree attributable 
to the wastage which goes on in these organizations 
and the necessity of keeping pace with it. Yet 
large organizations will never yield to a frontal 
attack until we undermine their intellectual and 
moral sanction. So long as we worship success, 
bigness, and cheapness as ends in themselves, we 
shall continue to be enslaved by them, while in 
so far as they owe their existence to the posses- 
sion of natural monopolies and legal privileges 
there can be no remedy but revolution. 

Finally, I would observe that if ever we are 
to emancipate ourselves from the tyranny of large 
organizations we shall have to be very clear in 
regard to our principles. Evil would never come 
into existence if it did not confer some immediate 
benefit. It is necessary to resist such temptations ; 
and the only terms on which it is finally possible 
to resist them is to be in possession of fixed 
principles. A study of the degeneration of 
organizations reveals the fact that every change, 

' Mr. Raymond Rudely fl'e, (lie City Keillor of (lie New 
Witness, in reviewing the share market of the past year (1916) 
says : " I cannot help thinking that the big shop has seen its 
best days. There was a time when these enterprises were 
the best investments possible, but nearly all of them have 
grown too big, and the management expenses are eating them 
up" (New Witness, January 4, 1917). 


which has led eventually to stagnation and decay, 
has been justified on the grounds of expediency. 
There is invariably some immediate financial 
advantage in centralization. This is tangible and 
definite, and so-called practical men can always 
point to it. The loss is spiritual, and is not so 
easily proved, but it can be felt by all men of 
imagination at the time it occurs. Only at a 
later date, when the material results are manifested, 
does this loss become apparent to the many. But 
it is then too late. 


THE underlying cause of the incompatibility of 
large organizations with human liberty and happi- 
ness is to be found in the system of the division 
of labour which lies at their base and upon which 
they are built. In this chapter I propose to 
examine this system. 

Now it goes without saying that in any civilized 
community labour to some extent must be divided. 
It is obvious that a man cannot supply all his 
own needs. To some extent he is inevitably 
dependent upon others. No sooner did civilization 
begin to develop than this necessity brought about 
the specialization of men into different trades. 
One man became a weaver, another a carpenter, 
and so forth. In this sense the division of labour 
may be said to have existed since the earliest 
times. What, however, in economic language we 
understand by the system of the division of labour 
are measures undertaken to increase the output 
and reduce the cost of production of certain 
articles of general use by subdividing a trade into 
a great number of separate branches. This system 
came into existence during the early part of the 



eighteenth century, the classical example being 
that eulogized by Adam Smith in The Wealth 
of Nations, namely pin making, in which industry 
it takes twenty men to make a pin, each man 
being specialized for a lifetime on a single process. 

Now it is apparent that the value which we 
place upon such a system as this must depend, 
as does our opinion of everything else in this 
universe, upon our point of view. Whether we 
believe this system to be a blessing or a curse 
depends ultimately upon what we conceive to be 
the object of industry. If the object of industry 
is to cheapen wares as much as possible, then 
the system of the division of labour is a real 
blessing ; but if, on the other hand, its object is 
to produce men and human happiness, then it 
must be pronounced the greatest curse that 
has ever befallen mankind. The Fabian, reason- 
ing upon fact, and leaving human nature out of 
account, regards it as a blessing because it pro- 
duces goods in a great quantity and cheaply. 
I, on the other hand and I think most workers 
will agree with me believe that it is an unmiti- 
gated curse, and that the cheapness which it makes 
possible is no compensation for the degradation 
of the lives of the producers, which is its inevit- 
able accompaniment. It begins by cheapening 
goods ; it ends by cheapening men. 

Now, lest any of my readers should imagine 
that this system is necessary if the mass of the 
workers are to enjoy the comforts of life, I would 
point out that without it there would be plenty 


for all and to spare if all did their share of the 
work to be done in the world. In the Middle 
Ages there was an eight -hours day, and there 
were sixty saints' days on which the people had 
holiday, and yet they had sufficient leisure to 
build our cathedrals and to decorate the most 
utilitarian objects. Sir Thomas More in his 
Utopia, which was written in the sixteenth century, 
estimated that if all did their share of work a 
six -hours day would suffice to do all which needed 
doing ; and this estimate, I imagine, would take 
for granted a certain amount of elaborate craft 
work which, strictly speaking, is a luxury, for 
to the Medievalist mind beauty was a necessity. 
It would appear therefore from this that if the 
aim of social reform is to reduce the hours of 
labour as much as possible, then if industry were 
strictly utilitarian, it would be possible to do 
what is required by hand labour and without 
the division of labour in a four- or five-hours 

I said that the cheapness which results from 
the division of labour is no compensation for 
the degradation of the lives of the producers. It 
is impossible for a man to be happy who is 
compelled to spend his whole working life in 
the repetition of a single mechanical operation. 
If it be true, as Aristotle asserts, thai happiness 
is the result of complete activity or its complement 
(according to the Hindus) of complete inactivity, 
then the division of labour must be at the root 
of endless misery. For what can be worse for 


a man than to spend his whole life in a narrow 
and artificial activity, which precludes alike the 
possibility of spontaneity and rest? For both 
activity and inactivity must be voluntary if they 
are to lead to happiness. 

.We often hear it said nowadays that there is 
a slump in happiness ; and for the majority I 
think it is true. It is the effect of this system 
on our lives. Commencing with such simple 
things as pins and needles, the principle has been 
applied 'first to this and then to that, until in one 
way or another nearly all of us are enslaved, 
and everywhere we find that men tend to become 
increasingly specialized along the lines of one 
single groove. The corruption has reached the 
professions, which is the beginning of the end, 
for when specialization is complete the co-ordi- 
nating mind, which is essential to join the 
specialists together, will no longer be available. 

Again, specialization not only leads to confused 
thinking, for no man can think clearly whose 
experience of life is confined to a narrow area, 
but it puts too great a strain upon one aspect 
of a man's nature. A man can only be really 
happy when every side of his nature is given 
opportunity for expression. To force him into 
a groove is, so far as his soul is concerned, 
to put him into prison. 

The Fabian Essays lead off with the significant 
dogma that " All economic analysis begins with 
the cultivation of the earth." This may perhaps 
be true within certain limits. With equal truth 


it may be affirmed that " all social analysis begins 
with the nature of man," and for the purposes 
of social reconstruction it is the real starting-point, 
because, as it is necessary to act through men 
if we are going to change things, a theory of 
social reconstruction which makes the nature of 
man the starting-point in its analysis will have 
a very direct bearing upon human possibilities. 
It will not be necessary for me to answer 
the question : What is man, and what are his 
possibilities? It will be sufficient for our 
immediate purpose to affirm that it is natural 
for man to take pleasure in his work ; and if 
he is unable to take it, then there is something 
radically wrong with the conditions of his labour. 
His instincts will be thwarted and his life will 
be corrupted at its roots. He will cease to be a 
normal man, and a feeling of restlessness will 
overcome him, which feeling, in its reaction upon 
society, will vitiate all healthy human relation- 
ships. Thus, hating work, he will desire to 
accumulate money that he may be relieved of its 
necessity, whilst he will be unable to find delight 
in the normal pleasures of life. He will crave 
excitement. I am assured that the spirit of 
gambling and speculation, which is such a peril 
to modern society, has its roots in the monotonous 
nature of the work to which most men have 
been condemned by the division of labour and 
its social implications. False social standards are 
exalted, and in a thousand and one ways evil 
influences are set in motion. In a word, " every- 


thing is turned upside down," which common 
phrase is the most perfect definition of the social 
problem ever enunciated. Things are upside 
down ; that is the matter with modern society. 

Now, it is to be observed that though the 
system of the division of labour cheapens pro- 
duction, it does not allow the workers to take 
advantage "of the resulting cheapness. The skill 
of the craftsman is an asset like property. It 
gives him an effective bargaining power in the 
market, and so enables him to get a decent 
wage. But the system of the division of labour 
demands little or no skill of the individual worker, 
and the capitalist finds it easy to exploit the 
unskilled worker. Deprived of his skill, the 
worker can offer no effective resistance to the 
tyranny of the capitalist, who can bring in the 
competition of boy and woman labour to drag 
down his wages to mere subsistence level. And 
there can be no remedy so long as this diabolical 
system is allowed to endure. Fabianism supports 
it, as it does every instrument of oppression. 
Speeding-up is nothing new in industry. It is 
merely the application to skilled trades of a 
tyranny under which the unskilled have suffered 
for nearly two hundred years. 

I will conclude this chapter with a quotation 
from Ruskin, in which he directed public atten- 
tion to this evil sixty years ago. The world 
would have been much happier would it only 
have listened to him. It is from The Stones of 


We have much studied and much perfected of late the 
great civilized invention of the division of labour ; only we 
give it a false name. It is not, truly speaking, the labour that 
is divided, but the men divided into mere segments of men 
broken into small fragments and crumbs of life; so that all 
the little piece of intelligence that is left in a man is not 
enough to make a pin or a nail, but exhausts itself in making 
the point of a pin or the head of a nail. Now, it is a good and 
desirable thing, truly, to make many pins a day ; but if we 
could only see with what crystal sand their 'points were 
polished sand of human soul, much to be magnified before 
it can be discerned for what it is we should think that there 
might be some loss in it also. And the great cry that rises 
from all our manufacturing cities, louder than their furnace 
blast, is all in very deed for this that we manufacture every- 
thing there except men ; we blanch cotton, and strengthen 
steel, and refine sugar, and shape pottery ; but to brighten, to 
strengthen, to refine, or to form a single living spirit never 
enters into our estimate of advantages. And all the evil to 
which that cry is urging our myriads can be met only in one 
way : not by teaching nor preaching, for to teach them is but 
to show them their misery, and to preach to them, if we do 
nothing more than preach, is to mock at it. It can be met 
only by a right understanding on the part of all classes, of 
what kinds of labour are good for men, raising them, and 
making them happy ; by a determined sacrifice of such 
convenience, or beauty, or cheapness as is to be got only by 
the degradation of the workman, and by equally determined 
demand for the products and results of healthy and ennobling 

There is one comment it is necessary for me 
to make on this eloquent passage, and it lies 
at the root of Ruskin's failure. He disdained 
to preach to the people, not understanding that 
reform from above can only be successful on 
the assumption that it is met by an impulse from 


below. .We know better than this to-day. This 
nightmare out of Bedlam will never come to an 
end until the people rebel against it and claim 
their right to be treated as responsible and human 
beings. So long as they are content to work 
as the mere cogs in a machine, neither economic 
nor spiritual emancipation is possjble. 


CLOSELY allied with the problems connected with 
the system of the division of labour is that of 
machine production. If we decide that the 
division of labour is a curse, and is the cause 
alike of the modern unhappiness and the economic 
servitude of the workers, then it follows that in 
so far as the use of machinery necessitates this 
subdivision of function, it can only have evil 
results. If, also, it be true that the happiness and 
independence of the workers is the only basis 
upon which a reasonable and stable society can 
be built, the use of machinery will need to be 
limited in such a way as to make this possible. 
Socialists are very fond of using the phrase 
" Machinery must be the slave of man, and not 
his master." I wonder how many of those who 
have expressed their opinions in this way under- 
stand the implications of their words, for they 
are accustomed to suppose that machinery would, 
of necessity, become the slave of man if its profits 
or its products were divided among the workers. 
But is this so? Granted, for the purposes of 
argument, that the control of machinery might 


pass into the hands of the workers organized 
in Guilds, it would be possible for the workers 
to share its profits or products and to suppress 
adulteration and jerry work ; but that would not 
make machinery the slave of man. I am per- 
suaded that there is more in the problem than 
that that, indeed, machinery might be owned by 
the Guilds and its more flagrant abuses abolished, 
and yet might be the master instead of the slave 
of man. I contend that the man who spends 
his whole life in repeating some simple mechanical 
process is the slave of machinery, though he 
should be a millionaire. 

Such a man might be well -clothed, housed, 
and fed, and yet the machine would be using 
him, and not he the machine. If we think more 
about this matter we shall see that whether 
machinery is the slave of man or his master is 
not primarily a question of ownership, but is re- 
lative to the size of the machine. In the same 
way, when we say that " fire is a good servant, 
but a bad master," we are thinking of its size. 
A fire that we can control is one whose boundaries 
are clearly defined one that we can isolate. The 
same truth holds good with respect to the control 
of machinery. To control it we must be in a 
position to isolate it. And this problem, so far 
as production is concerned, resolves itself finally 
into a question of size. ,We can isolate a small 
machine because we can turn it off or on at will, 
as is the case with the sewing machine. Such 
a machine can be used to reduce the amount of 


drudgery that requires to be done, and enable 
us to pursue more interesting work. But when 
machinery is used on a large scale it is different. 
Those who make use of it must keep it in com- 
mission. It must be fed ; and to feed it a 
man must sacrifice himself mentally and morally 
to-day. Hence it happens that among all those 
who are connected with faiachine production there 
is an absolute indifference to the interests of every- 
thing except the one all-absorbing interest and 
aim of keeping it going. 1 That is why the 
tendency of machine production is to place the 
control of industry entirely into the hands of a 
hard and narrow type of man the financial men, 
who are undoubtedly the least imaginative section 
of the community, or, to be more correct, are 
imaginative only on the lower and selfish plane 
of thought. 

The control of industry by men of this type 
is inevitable with the extensive use of machinery, 
because only men of such temperament aspire 
to its control under these conditions. Modern 
society finds itself at the mercy of such men 
because men with broader and more humane 
sympathies naturally shrink from the narrow and 
sordid life which the control of machinery and 
the administration of finance involves. It is to 
be observed that though Fabians and such-like 

1 There are certain kinds of large machines against which 
this objection could not always be urged, as, for instance, 
machinery for pumping or lifting. Against the use of such 
machinery there can be no objection. 


people profess to believe in a glorious future for 
machinery, they nevertheless prefer to follow occu- 
pations not directly connected with it. And so 
does everybody else who is able to choose, because 
machine tending is so monotonous and deadening. 
The only interesting work connected with it lies 
with the inventor, and with such hand work as 
still requires to be done. Machine tending is 
a different matter. It means putting oneself for 
life into a narrow groove, and every man with 
imagination seeks to escape from such a fate, 
as from death. There was some wisdom in that 
old regulation of the Laws of Manu which forbade 
the use of all but small machines, it being held 
that the use of large ones was inimical to society 
as tending to foster the growth of the commercial 
spirit. The Laws of Manu, I might add, are 
the code of laws which underlie the Hindu caste 

Considerations of this kind suggest the desira- 
bility of looking at the problem from all points 
of view. The final question which we must 
always ask in considering such issues is not how 
much more cheaply can goods be produced by 
extending the use of machinery, but how are 
such innovations likely to affect the character of 
men, and how do they affect the position of the 
young? iWe shall never be able to secure a 
more equitable distribution of wealth in the com- 
munity so long as we lend our approval to methods 
of production which assist the advancement in 
society of its most selfish men, Some day, 


perhaps, we may come to understand that pro- 
duction ; and distribution are not two separate 
problems, as economists hitherto have been 
accustomed to suppose, but are indissolubly linked 
together in the nature and character of men, and 
that our failure to solve the problem of distri- 
bution is largely to be accounted for by our 
prejudices regarding methods of production. 

I said that in considering this problem we 
must have regard to the position of the young. 
In every craft there is much work which, from 
,the standpoint of the skilled craftsman, may be 
ranked as drudgery, and yet it may not be advis- 
able to do it by machinery, as such work is often 
very valuable for the purpose of training appren- 
tices. Nowadays, when machinery has absorbed 
most of this work, the apprentices cannot get 
proper training. iWe attempt to remedy this defect 
by the provision of Technical Schools. .We spend 
a great deal of money on them, and yet we only 
deal with a small minority of the boys. There 
is no chance of the principle being given a wider 
application, not only because of its great cost, 
but because the growth of machinery has so under- 
mined the demand for skilled labour that there 
would be no market for these boys if a greater 
number were trained. Most of this money is sheer 
waste, and more than counterbalances what is 
saved by using machinery, while the training which 
these schools afford is at the best nothing like so 
good as that provided by the old apprenticeship 
system. The training has a tendency to become 


unrelated to practical work. There is something 
in the atmosphere of a workshop, with its patri- 
archal spirit, which allows the apprentice to learn 
a trade in what we may call an organic way. 
Dr. Coomaraswamy tells us that it is still thought 
in India that the master's secret may best be 
learnt by the apprentice in devoted personal 
service. Needless to say, such relationships are 
impossible in a technical school. The whole 
system is too impersonal. Boys who are taught 
in them are apt to be deficient in the power of 
adaptability. The reason for this is, as a technical 
school teacher once explained to me, that as in 
a workshop there are several men to one boy, 
the boy gradually becomes a part of a continuous 
tradition ; whereas, in a technical school, there 
are many boys to one man, and this sense of tradi- 
tion is lost. The proper attitude towards technical 
schools is to regard them at the best as a stopgap. 
They can never become a substitute for appren- 
ticeship . 

Modern industry makes no provision for the 
young. Large-scale machine production, by creat- 
ing impersonal relationships, has destroyed our 
sense of responsibility. Commercialism does not 
look upon the rising generation as something for 
which we are responsible, but as material for 
exploitation. It is impossible to separate the 
problem of boy labour from those of the division 
of labour and unregulated machine production. It 
is only the intellectual cowardice of Collectivists, 
who felt that to connect them struck at the very 


centre of their theory of social evolution, that has 
hitherto prevented its recognition. The remedy 
presented by Mr. and Mrs. Webb in the Minority 
Report of the Poor Law Commission is the last 
word in timidity and futility. Instead of finding 
the root of the problem in unregulated machine 
production, they proposed to give everybody a 
technical training. .What is to be the nature of 
this training I am entirely at a loss to make out, 
for they admit the skilled trades are overcrowded, 
and that in the unskilled trades are to be found 
many who once followed skilled occupations and 
have lost their footing owing to the spread of 
machinery. So that, finally, it comes to this 
that Mr. and Mrs. Webb hope to solve the problem 
of boy labour by teaching boys trades for skill 
in which they admit there is no demand. This 
is typical of the contradictions in which Collec- 
tivists have in these days become involved, and 
the fundamental cause of it all is that they have 
never dared to face this question of machinery. 
If the reform movement is going to follow such 
leadership as this, then clearly our social and in- 
dustrial system can have only one ending. There 
will some day be no competence left to run it. 


IN the last chapter I stated the principles which 
I am persuaded should govern the application 
of machinery to production. In this one I propose 
to explain the nature of the evils which have 
followed the neglect or 'disregard of them. 

Foremost amongst these is the growth of 
economic instability in our society, which is directly 
attributable to the misapplication of machinery. 
A nation to be stable must be so at its base. 
The workers must neither be insecure nor suffer 
from a sense of insecurity. They should be able 
to take their work in a leisurely fashion, and 
regard themselves as having a job for life ; or, 
in other words, they must be rooted. If they go 
from one job to another it should be from choice, 
and not out of necessity. This, I contend, is 
the only basis of a stable society ; and if such 
conditions do not obtain, and uncertainty comes 
to prevail in people's lives, then it will tend 
gradually to undermine all the cardinal virtues 
upon which national stability finally rests. The 
workers will lose their courage and independence, 
a.nd will become demoralized, having, indeed, no 


higher aim than that of keeping going from 
day to day. 

Now, extensive machine production denies 
security to those engaged in it. It places them 
at the mercy of forces over which they have no 
control, nor, I am persuaded, ever can have. The 
workers are to-day dependent on a new inven- 
tion, a prospector's luck, a change of tariffs in 
some foreign land, a change of fashion, and a 
thousand and one other things ; and though some 
of these things do not immediately arise from the 
employment of machinery, but have existed from 
the earliest times, their evil has become enormously 
intensified since its introduction. Extensive 
machine production means quantitative production, 
and if goods are produced in such quantities 
that they cannot be consumed for the most part 
locally, then the element of uncertainty begins 
to increase. Within certain limits uncertainty is, 
of course, inevitable. But there is a fundamental 
difference between the uncertainty which, in an 
agricultural community, is due to a bad harvest, 
and the artificial uncertainty caused by overpro- 
duction, a change of fashion, or a new invention. 
The former is inevitable, and as a rule is only 
temporary ; the latter is purely artificial, and is 
apt to be much more serious. In America, where 
industry is more developed, and machinery more 
misapplied, the changes are often violent. A 
factory works at full pressure for several months, 
and then it closes down until it can dispose of 
its surplus stock. Meanwhile the workers are 


left to starve. This tendency is inevitable, and 
will continue to increase so long as we worship 
machinery in the utterly irrational way we do to- 
day. To use machinery as a slave is impossible 
for a people who treat it as a divinity. 

Evidence is not wanting that unregulated 
machine production is carrying us along this path 
of destruction. Mr. Chesterton once said that 
modern society was getting top-heavy, and the 
danger was that it would turn turtle. The Census 
of Production appears to support this contention, 
for, according to an article which recently appeared 
in the New. Statesman, by Sir Leo Chiozza Money, 1 
whose authority on this matter I am prepared to 
accept, " a surprisingly small proportion of men, 
women, and children, engaged in occupations for 
gain, are actual and direct producers of material 
commodities, whether minerals, agricultural pro- 
ducts, or manufactured articles," while there is 
a " monstrous disproportion of distributors, traf- 
fickers, and hangers-on of various kinds, whose 
work is of little or no economic value, and who 
serve to attenuate the thin stream of commodities 
many of them consisting of rubbish deliber- 
ately and knowingly produced as rubbish which 
flows from the places where the real work of the 
nation is done." Sir Leo does not give us the 
exact proportions which the useful and useless 
labour bear to each other ; nor is it necessary. 
It is sufficient that we know that there exists this 

1 " Delimitation and Transmutation of Industries," by Sir 
Leo Chiozza Money, M.P. (New Statesman, March 14, 1914). 


monstrous disproportion. Any one with eyes to 
see knows this to be true, quite apart from the 
corroborative testimony of the Census of Produc- 
tion. Sir Leo offers no explanation of its cause. 
He merely states it as a fact, the inference being 
that it is to be ascribed entirely to the unequal 
distribution of wealth. 

Needless to say, to a certain extent this is true ; 
but it is not the whole of the truth by any means, 
for it is demonstrable that in a far higher degree 
the disproportion of useless to useful labour is 
due to our excessive use of machinery. Every 
time a machine is invented to do useful and 
necessary work, which hitherto was done by hand, 
it transfers a certain number of men from useful 
to useless occupations. It increases the number 
of distributors, traffickers, and hangers-on of 
various kinds, or, in other words, it turns the 
craftsman into a commercial traveller l or a maker 
of useless commodities. This process will con- 
tinue until we make up our minds to limit the 
use of machinery. It is no use arguing, as Sir 
Leo does, that it would be possible, with a strong 
central authority, to remedy this defect by re- 
distributing the work of the community in such 
a way as to transfer men back from useless 
to useful work, because it so happens that, as 
industry becomes more complex, the establish- 
ment of a strong central authority becomes increas- 

1 According to Advertising and Progress, by E. S. Hole and 
John Hart, the capital invested in distribution to-day is about 
three times as great as that invested in actual production, 


ingly difficult. Even if one could be established 
we should be no better off, for the number of 
adjustments required would be legion, and there 
is no man living; nor is there ever likely to be 
one who will have sufficient knowledge and ex- 
perience to get a grip of the endless details 
necessary to effect such a delimitation and trans- 
mutation of occupations. If there were one, too, 
he would be powerless, because he would be con- 
fronted with the problem of vested interests. The 
truth is, this is not the way things are done. 
There is a limit to the successful application of 
the principle of control from without, and that 
limit has long since been reached. The only 
way to grapple with this problem is by giving 
application to the principle of control from within, 
such as would follow the restoration of the Guilds. 
Sir Leo Chiozza Money is a believer in the 
extended use of machinery, but he does not believe 
in Guilds. He is consistent in his point of view, 
for it is almost a certainty that if the Guilds were 
restored efforts would be made to regulate 
machinery. That is, indeed, one of the reasons 
why we want to see them restored. Sir Leo sees 
a danger in this, for he says that : "We have to 
beware lest we stereotype forms and institutions 
which frustrate the proper use of great ideas," 
as the groups or Guilds " would seek to perpetuate 
their functions, whether they were useful or not." 
If this were true it would be a valid objection, 
but I am assured there is no such danger possible. 
I deny the possibility of superimposing Guild 


organization over latter-day parasitic and useless 
occupations. Guild organization could only be 
applied to industries which had a basis in real 
human needs, and commencing' with these, the 
surplus labour which nowadays is compelled to 
follow useless occupations would be absorbed as 
it became possible to regulate machinery. It is 
strange that Sir Leo should object to Guild organi- 
zation for these reasons, for it was the realization 
of the danger of stereotyping men which first 
opened my eyes to the evils of Collectivism, and 
led me to place my hopes for the future in the 
restoration of the Guilds. This stereotyping is 
now more than a danger ; it is an established 

Finally, I would suggest the wisdom of not 
accepting scientists at their own valuation. tWe 
have fallen into a fatal habit of assuming that 
a thing which is new is in some mysterious way 
beneficial to society. A new device has only 
to call itself scientific and it is assumed, without 
further question, that it is superior in every way 
to the thing which it seeks to supplant. Such, 
however, is rarely the case. .What scientific men 
invariably do is to seek the remedy for one evil 
by creating another, and, generally speaking, a 
worse. Our memories are very short, or we would 
be very sceptical about the predictions of scientific 
men. Their promises are rarely fulfilled, and 
most of them show no signs of ever being ful- 
filled. They prophesied that the application of 
machinery to industry would give the people 


leisure by reducing the amount of drudgery to 
be done in the world. Are there any signs of it? 
Has not precisely the opposite state of things 
come about? They told us that money-making 
would make the many rich. Are there any signs 
of it? Has not again precisely the opposite come 
about, and have not the masses been precipitated 
into the most abject poverty the world has ever 
seen? They told us that Free Trade and universal 
markets would inaugurate an era of peace and 
good will amongst nations ! Again, I say, are 
there any signs of it, and are we not exhausting 
our resources to-day in a competition for arma- 
ments? Why should we listen seriously to a 
point of view with such a record of failure behind 
it, or to men who make promises which they have 
no idea how to fulfil ; whose only remedy, indeed, 
for every evil is to take measures to increase it. 



THE final answer to Socialists, who imagine that 
it is possible to remedy the evils of poverty by 
compromising with Industrialism, is that, if they 
could be successful in their efforts, Industrialism 
itself would immediately collapse, for no one could 
be found to do the objectionable and dangerous 
work which lies at its base. 

Socialists who talk glibly about the blessings 
of Industrialism are invariably members of the 
middle class, who profit at the expense of their 
fellows. Industrialism has brought them many 
conveniences, and it has also given them oppor- 
tunities for travel. They dream of a day when 
the mass of the workers will enjoy the same 
opportunities, not realizing it is an utterly impos- 
sible dream. It is merely a middle-class illusion, 
for these conveniences are only made possible by 
the existence in our society of a class of workers 
who are not so fortunately placed. 

In a new country like South Africa it has 
only hitherto been possible to get such work done 



by tempting the cupidity of workers who were 
anxious to make a pile in a short space of time 
and to return home. In this country the capitalist 
finds himself to-day under no such necessity. His 
policy is to sweat the workers. He aims at the 
deliberate creation of a class of workers so de- 
graded, and with an outlook in life so hopeless, 
that they will have little option but to do the 
horrible and dangerous work which lies at the 
base of industrialism. This he has been able 
to do because he found such a slave class ready 
to his hand, which had come into existence as 
a result of the appropriation of the land by the 
few and the economic uncertainties which had 
followed the growth of quantitative production. 
Apart from the use which is made of machinery, 
the most important difference between the present 
day processes of manufacture and those that ob- 
tained in the past is due to the use of chemicals. 
Nearly all the newer developments of industry 
which Mr. H. G. 3A5ells, Sir Leo Chiozza Money, 
and their friends are so anxious to praise have 
been made possible by the discoveries of our 
chemists. And what do we find comes about 
as a result of these discoveries, but an 'utterly 
ruthless disregard for the claims of human life, 
which is unparalleled in history? By comparison, 
the slavery of the Pagan world appears as a 
quite humane institution. The slave of the past 
had no personal liberty, but he was generally 
properly fed, and in other respects his life was 
tolerable, except in the darkest periods. He was 



not submitted to that slow physical torture which 
is the fate, not only of our chemical workers, but 
of those in a great many other industries which, 
strictly speaking, may not be classed as chemical 
ones. Workers engaged in the manufacture of 
alkalis, rubber, Portland cement, white lead, 
aniline dyes, artificial manures, to mention only a 
few, come from a degraded class, and are slowly 
poisoned and done to death in order that our 
industrial system may continue and production 
be placed on a scientific basis. 

There is nothing new in all this. Facts of 
this kind were revealed seventeen years ago by 
Mr. Robert W;. Sherard in The White Staves of 
England, which, prior to its publication as a book, 
appeared in serial form in Pearson's Magazine. 
A more scathing indictment of Industrialism has 
never been written, Mr. Sherard was a member 
of the Fabian Society, and it might have been 
expected that when this society found itself in 
the possession of such information it would have 
begun to look upon industrialism and the dis- 
coveries of science in a new light that it would 
have come to the conclusion, not merely that 
industrialism sweated the workers, but that its 
whole aim and purpose was at fault. Such, 
unfortunately, was not the case. The glamour 
of science blinded them to the truth. Mr. 
Sherard's book has formed the subject of lectures 
and articles all over the world. But official 
Fabianism allowed the matter quietly to drop, 
and nowadays there are few Fabians who realize 


the existence of these horrors. Those who do, tell 
us that the remedy is to be found in the shortening 
of the hours of labour and the introduction of 
safety regulations, etc., which would render such 
evils, where they were not actually preventable, 
comparatively harmless. 

To me, however, this proposed solution has 
never been convincing, and for a long time it 
puzzled me to account for the Fabian attitude 
towards this problem. Fabians were not without 
sympathy for suffering, and it is unthinkable that 
they should regard physical torture as of less 
importance than poverty. The conclusion at which 
I eventually arrived was that this attitude was 
attributable to their materialistic philosophy. It 
becomes apparent, therefore, that if our ideal of 
the future is ultimately translatable into the terms 
of the present, we shall find ourselves in the end 
committed to the support of the present system. 
Mr. and Mrs. Webb's acquiescence in speeding- 
up as their endorsement of the Servile State is 
ultimately to be accounted for by the fact that 
with such a limited vision they can see no alterna- 
tive. And it is the same, I imagine, with respect 
to their attitude towards our chemical industries. 
They accept as inevitable, evils whose existence 
they deplore, because they lack the requisite imagi- 
nation to see their way to abolish them. 

Looking, then, at our chemical industries and 
dangerous trades from this point of view, the 
failure of the leaders of the Fabian Society to 
handle the problem: which they present may be 


traced to their lack of aesthetic insight. The 
official Fabians thought such evils inevitable, 
because the products of such industries were de- 
sirable. But a man of taste knows better. He 
looks at things in a different way, and knows 
that if the taste of the community could be raised, 
most of these evils would automatically disappear. 
I should not like to be so rash as to say they 
would all do so, for there are certain evils which 
are not to be eradicated entirely in this way. 
But, in any case, they would be reduced to more 
manageable dimensions. 

To prove exactly how far such a statement 
is true, it would be necessary to conduct a 
very wide inquiry into industrial processes ; but 
it is certainly true, up to a certain point. So 
far as my investigations have carried me, I have 
discovered that innumerable things which the artist 
abominates give rise to dangerous industries. 
Take the case of lead poisoning, so well known 
in the Potteries. It is not inevitable. The lead- 
less glaze made with felspar is not dangerous. 
iWhy, then, is it not in general use? The answer 
is because, as the modern public has a debased 
taste, it demands a high glaze. 

And so again with respect to the manufacture 
of aniline dyes and the bleaching of fabrics, which 
are dangerous trades. The artist likes dull glazes, 
broken colour, and a feeling of texture in materials, 
but the public to-day, destitute of any aesthetic 
perception and mechanical in its taste, likes an 
appearance of smartness. It is this smartness, 


or trade finish, which Mr. Bernard Shaw is so 
anxious to praise, that has created one of the 
main sources of demand for chemicals to-day. 
Another reason for their use is the growth of 
adulteration. It would not be untrue to say that, 
as art and the pride of craftsmanship went out 
of industry, chemistry came in. Such are the 
benefits which science has brought to mankind. 1 
It looks, indeed, as if there were some truth after 
all in the old Eastern proverb that " knowledge 
is evil." 

It is necessary for me to point out that many 
of the evils connected with production are in- 
creased by the specialization involved in the great 
industry. In the old days of small industries and 
small workshops, to which the craftsman hopes 
to return, many of these dangerous trades formed 
part of other trades, and so the evil was not 
felt. But as industry has become more and more 
specialized, each separate process has tended to 
become a trade in itself, and certain men become 
specialized on the dangerous part. The Collectivist 
is very fond of saying that in the future everybody 

1 "For long to come, if not for ever, science will be the 
remorseless enemy of mankind. I see it destroying all 
simplicity and gentleness of life, all beauty of the world ; I 
see it restoring barbarism under a mask of civilization ; I see 
it darkening men's minds and hardening their hearts ; I see it 
bringing a time of vast conflicts, which will pale into in- 
significance 'the thousand wars of old' and, as likely as not, 
will whelm all the laborious advances of mankind in blood- 
drenched chaos" (The Private Papers of Henry Ryecrofl, 
by George Gissing). 


will have to take his share of the dangerous 
work of the world. But he has no idea how he 
is going to do it. In these circumstances it is 
necessary to tell him. It is by restoring the 
small industry. There is no other way. 


THE conclusion to be drawn from our analysis 
of the structure of industry is that it is impossible 
to superimpose Guild organization upon its 
existing activities. The desire for profits, the 
division of labour, and the misapplication of 
machinery, have introduced such a measure of 
confusion, and created such a host of parasitic 
trades, that as it exists to-day, industry is in- 
capable of organization except upon a capitalist 
basis. So long as it remains as it is, the capitalist 
will inevitably remain master of the position, 
because industry to-day has no organic structure 
apart from his activities. As I pointed out in 
an earlier chapter, it has no life springing from 
its own roots, but has come to depend upon an 
external and artificial stimulus to galvanize it 
into activity from above. 

In these circumstances it will be necessary, 
before taking measures to restore the Guilds, to 
bring industry back to a healthy and normal 
state. We must pursue a policy which will 
enable us to rid ourselves of the incubus of 
the parasitic trades by, the gradual absorption 
of the workers into the useful ones. The way 



to do this, in so far as it is an urban problem, 
is to effect a general revival of handicraft. 
Such a revival would restore to industry the 
base which the misapplication of machinery has 
destroyed. Upon this base we could build. The 
immediate economic effect of a revival of 'handi- 
craft would be to relieve the pressure of com- 
petition by giving employment to a greater 
number of workers. The reaction of this upon 
the position of the workers would be to bring 
into their lives a greater element of choice, 
which would enable them to regulate machinery 
and to transfer their labour where desirable r from 
useless to useful occupations. 

Fortunately for us, the pioneer work of such 
a revival has already been done. Its foundations 
have been well and securely laid by the Arts 
and Crafts Movement, which came into existence 
thirty years ago as a result of the influence of 
William Morris. There is no way of finding 
out the truth like that of doing things, and the 
Arts and Crafts Movement, by attempting to raise 
the standard of quality in production, has brought 
into the light of day economic knowledge for 
which we have much reason to be grateful. 
The experience of the movement has made an 
economic analysis of production for quality 
possible. Its successes and failures each have 
their lessons to teach, but from the economic 
point of view we learn more from the failures. 

What is the nature of this failure of the Arts 
and Crafts Movement? It is that it has not 


attained its real object of stemming the tide of 
that industrialism which produces shoddy wares, 
the cheapness of which is paid for by the lives 
of their producers and the degradation of their 
users. Nor has it succeeded in bringing beauty 
back into the lives and homes of the workers, 
or in freeing art from its dependence on luxury. 
That the movement has failed in this high en- 
deavour, and exists to-day to produce articles 
of luxury for the rich, is not its fault. It is its 
misfortune. Craftsmanship is impossible without 
intelligent patronage, and it has been the mis- 
guided patronage of the public, who failed to 
appreciate the significance of the movement, and 
therefore to support it in the way it desired to be 
supported, that has 'diverted its energies into the 
wrong channels. There was certainly some excuse 
for the public, for the movement was largely 
experimental, and it was unfortunately not 
accompanied by a propagandist movement which 
would have explained its aims. The consequence 
is that the public have failed to understand that 
the kind of work produced has been too often 
a matter of necessity rather than of deliberate 

The layman to-day, having observed that the 
craftsmen connected with the movement are 
mostly concerned with the production of works 
of a decorative and ornate character, and realizing 
their superiority over machine-made articles, has 
conceded the case for craftsmanship in this 
sphere of work. It is rare nowadays to meet 


a man of education who would deny it. We may 
conclude, therefore, that within the sphere of 
aesthetics the battle has been won. But this is 
as far as we have gone. The implications of 
this admission are not understood by sociologists 
generally, who imagine that it is possible for 
the more highly skilled crafts to be organized 
on a basis of hand production, while the more 
roufine kinds are given over to the machine. 
This is the issue which has hitherto divided 
Socialists and craftsmen. It is fundamental, for 
experience has proved to the craftsmen that to 
compromise is to be lost. 

It is not, then, out of mere pig-headedness 
that the craftsman demands that the use of 
machinery shall be limited to the extent which 
I suggested in an earlier chapter. In practice, 
craftsmen are too often compelled to compromise 
to-day. But those who are clear-headed know 
that they are making terms with the devil for 
permission to live ; for it is finally impossible 
to have a body of cream without a body of milk 
underneath it. If the milk is there, then the 
cream will rise to the top ; but if instead of 
milk we only get chalk and water, then no cream 
will be forthcoming. The highly skilled crafts- 
man knows only too well that in modern industry 
he lives by suffrance. He knows that he is part 
of an old order which is fast disappearing ; that 
the ground is rapidly slipping away from under 
his feet, and that unless the tide of machine 
production can be stemmed the present genera- 


tion of craftsmen will have no successors. It 
will be impossible to train a small group of 
highly skilled men to succeed them, because it 
will be impossible to select them for the purpose 
of training. The young apprentice is an un- 
known quantity ; and it is only by providing 
opportunities for training and work for the many 
that the great craftsmen become possible. The 
well-known craftsmen connected with the Arts 
and Crafts Movement are the few among a great 
mass of inferior craftsmen who have survived 
because of their superior gifts and opportunities. 
Doubtless there are many among our machine 
workers who might have attained to the same 
prominence and distinction had they enjoyed 
similar advantages and opportunities, for it is 
opportunity that makes the man. The powers 
within us lie dormant until the chance comes 
along which quickens them into life. Hence it 
is, when I hear a man talk about the need of 
equality of opportunity, I invariably ask his 
opinion of machine production. His answer to 
that question tells me finally exactly where he 
stands, for machinery has been the great destroyer 
of this equality. It has created the most effective 
class barrier ever devised. A quotation from 
Dr. Coomaraswamy's Mediceval Sinnalese Art 
will drive my point home. Speaking of the 
relationship existing between machinery and 
industry, he says :-= 

Not merely is the workman through the division of labour 
no longer able to make any whole thing, but it is impossible 


for him to improve his position or to win reward for excellence 
in the craft itself. Under Guild conditions it was possible 
and usual for the apprentice to rise through all grades of 
knowledge and experience to the position of a master crafts- 
man. But take any such trade as carpet-making by power- 
loom under modern conditions. The operator has no longer 
to design or weave in and out the threads with his own 
fingers or to throw the shuttle with his own hand. He is 
employed, in reality, not as a weaver, but as the tender of a 
machine. . . . That craft is for him destroyed as a means of 
culture, and the community has lost one more man's intelli- 
gence, for it is obviously futile to attempt to build up by 
evening classes and free libraries what the day's work is for 
ever breaking down. It is no longer possible for culture and 
refinement to come to the craftsman through his work ; they 
must be won, if won at all, in spite of his work ; he must 
seek them in a brief hour snatched from rest and sleep, at 
the expense of life itself. . . . There can be no quality of 
leisure in his work. In short, machine production absolutely 
forbids a union of art with labour. 

The reason we do not readily recognize this 
is because we have come to connect the idea 
of culture with book-learning. But craft culture 
is a far better base to build upon. The real 
education comes by doing things. To do a piece 
of honest work and to try to place it on the 
market will teach a man ultimately more about 
sociology than reading a thousand books on the 
subject, because it gives him a firm grip of the 
basic facts. The man who never has had this 
practical experience cannot be quite sure of his 
fundamentals, and so tends to find himself at 
the mercy of intellectual fashions. The instability 
of the modern mind is due ultimately to the 


separation of the mass of the people from actual 
work. Machinery, in separating them from it, 
has destroyed the base of their culture, and in- 
tellectual stability will never return until this 
base is restored. It is interesting in this con- 
nection to know that in China, where the people 
reverence above all things literature and learning, 
the idea of literature pursued as a separate pro* 
fession is not favoured. Every literary man is 
supposed to be more or less of a craftsman 
a painter or a musician. And I think the 
Chinese are right, for literature divorced from 
its base in actual work is apt to lead to super- 


IF there is one thing more than another which 
the experience of the Arts and Crafts Move- 
ment has proved conclusively, it is the impossi- 
bility of any 'group of craftsmen, however gifted 
and in this connection it is well to remember 
that the movement 'secured the active support 
of the cleverest architects and artists of its day 
to effect any widespread reform, apart from' the 
organized support of the public. Without a 
propaganda movement to teach the public, the 
craftsman found himself very much at the mercy 
of the existing demand. A German poet has said 
that " against stupidity even the gods fight in 
vain," and on the aesthetic side of things the 
British public is peculiarly stupid. It utterly 
fails, for the most part, to understand the meaning 
and purpose of art. It fails to realize that 
beauty and sweetness are essential elements of 
any human perfection, and that art, when it is 
vital, enters into every operation of industry, from 
the making of bricks to the highest flights of 
the imagination. It conceives of art as a veneer 

or decoration superimposed upon, or added to 



something which would otherwise be ugly. The 
idea that art is organic and inherent in the 
nature of a thing from the moment of its in- 
ception has never so much as entered the public 
mind. And yet it is precisely the perception 
of this truth which is the essence of the artist. 
He recognizes that there is 'a right way of doing 
everything, and that right way is art. 

The ordinary British philistine will not admit 
this. Being without the finer aesthetic per- 
ceptions, which alone can enable a man to 
determine which is the right way of doing things, 
and lacking that spirit of humility which in 
the ages of 'great traditions made him conscious 
of his ignorance, he seeks to evade the problem 
by affirming that everything is a matter of taste. 
In one sense this is true, but not in the sense 
in which he means it. Every great artist has 
a personal bias. It is this bias that constitutes 
his individuality, and we are justified in respecting 
such differences as arise from the individuality 
of great artists. These, however, are funda- 
mentally different from the differences which arise 
from the idle fancies of undisciplined tastes, for 
the great artist submits his taste to a stern 
discipline. His spontaneity is the flower of that 
discipline, and it is just in proportion as a man 
can submit himself to this discipline that he 
takes his rank as an artist. I cannot insist too 
strongly upon the need of recognizing this truth. 
It is fundamental, and it will remain impossible 
to restore a tradition of 'art and handicraft until 


it is realized. The absence of any such tradition 
or common language of design is at the root 
of our difficulties to-day, for when every one 
is, as it were, speaking a different language, 
artists have little chance of being understood. 
Now, a tradition bears the same relation to art 
as the command of language does to speech. 
Without a language it would be possible for a 
man to make noises, but words are necessary to 
enable him to express himself, and he must 
possess a good vocabulary if he wishes to convey 
his ideas and to make his meaning clear to 
others. So in respect to a tradition of art ; with- 
out it, it is simply impossible for any man to 
design or express himself intelligently. The only 
way to recover such a medium of expression for 
the use of all is by the exercise of a rigid 
discipline in matters of taste. 

When we realize how utterly false is the 
popular idea of art to-day, it is not surprising 
that it is neglected. Truth to tell, in so far 
as the art of to-day does approximate to the 
popular notion there is no purpose in supporting 
it. The sooner it dies a natural death the better. 
But real art is a different matter. No nation 
neglects its claims without being made to suffer 
for it, and this not only in the hideousness and 
rawness of its external life, but in a decline of 
general intelligence and in the growth of economic 
difficulties. For all these things are related to 
each other in subtle ways, and the great thinkers 
of every "age have recognized it. Could we see 


that terrible monster, modern European material-, 
istic civilization in its true light, we should realize 
that it owes its existence in no small degree 
to our neglect of the arts and their sweetening 
and refining influence. The best proof I can 
bring of this is that art and our civilization are 
antipathetic, not merely in the material, but in 
the spiritual sense. It is impossible to produce 
beautiful things for people who think like the 
moderns do when they are determined to have 
their own way. In this respect Socialists as 
a body are no better than other people. Indeed, 
I often incline to think they are worse ; for 
their fatal habit of relating every evil in society 
to the growth of the economic problem is apt 
to blind them, to aspects of truth, the recognition 
of which is not only indispensable to the solution 
of the problems of art, but of the economic 
problem itself. 

I said that the popular idea of art was that 
it is a veneer or decoration added to something 
which would otherwise be ugly. This fallacy 
ultimately accounts for the neglect of the Arts 
and Crafts, because it leads the public to suppose 
that beauty is necessarily expensive. That, of 
course, is true, in so far as it depends upon 
honest workmanship and the use of good material, 
but that is all the truth there is in it. A table 
may be in good or bad proportion, it may be 
of a pleasing or offensive colour, but neither pro- 
portion nor colour has anything particularly to 
do with the cost. In each case what makes the 



difference is whether tke designer has an eye for 
these things. Many artistic products are cheap, 
as the peasant arts of all countries which have 
not been exploited by commercialism bear wit- 
ness. But the public neglect them. With their 
fixed idea that art is something added, a'nd there- 
fore costly, they refuse to buy such thing's. They 
prefer shoddy made imitations of more expensive 
forms of design. The consequence is that 
beautiful things which are inexpensive tend to 
go off the market. This stupid attitude of mind 
makes it difficult for the artist to be perfectly 
straightforward in his dealings with the public. 
He never knows what to charge. In many cases, 
if he charges a fair price and the price is low, 
they refuse to buy, on the assumption that it is 
not good work. If, knowing this, he prices his 
work high, as likely as not they will say that 
they cannot afford it. In a word, the artist 
in his dealings with the public to-day not in- 
frequently finds himself between the devil and 
the deep blue sea. The public become the prey 
of sharks of all kinds, because it is almost 
impossible for honest men to handle them. They 
have only themselves to blame. It is this kind 
of nonsense that defeated the Arts an.d Crafts 
movement in its original intention, and it is 
this kind of nonsense that the capitalist knows 
how to exploit. It is the secret of half of his 

There is another reason for the neglect of the 
Arts and Crafts. It is a spiritual failure. It 


is one of the paradoxes of our age that the public 
do not appear to mind how much they spend 
upon things of a temporary nature, but they 
grudge every penny spent upon things of per- 
manent value. The proprietor of a West-End 
gallery where works of handicraft are sold, told 
me recently that ladies who would not mind giving 
fifteen or twenty guineas for a hat which only 
lasts a few months and which probably only costs 
as many shillings to make, yet will consider 
an article of craftsmanship at a similar price, 
which represents real value in labour quite apart 
from its aesthetic qualities, as outside their reach. 
It is perfectly extraordinary, when you get behind 
the scenes, to witness the vagaries of the public 
or to account for their motives in expenditure. 
No matter how huge a person's income may 
be nowadays, he rarely thinks he can afford 
to buy anything of permanent 'value. The vast 
mass of people fritter away their incomes in 
all kinds of senseless extravagance. They know 
no limit to personal expenditure, and are mean 
and contemptible in every other direction. And 
this spirit is not only confined to the rich. It 
is spreading to every class of society, down to 
the lowest. Have we not heard what the factory 
girl spends on dress? 

Ruskin spent most of his life in trying to 
convince people that political economy is a moral 
science. He went to the root of the problem 
when he said : " The vital question for individual 
and for nation is not, How much do they make? 


but, To what purpose do they spend? " It is a 
fruitful idea, and it receives ample corroborative 
testimony from the writings of the Chinese philo- 
sopher, Ku Hung Ming. He says : 

The financial distress of China and the economic sickness 
of the world to-day are not due to insufficiency of productive 
power, to want of manufactures and railways, but to ignoble 
and wasteful consumption. Ignoble and wasteful consump- 
tion in communities, as in nations, means the want of nobility 
of character in the community or nation to direct the power 
of industry of the people to noble purposes. When there is 
nobility of character in a community or nation, people will 
know how to spend their money for noble purposes. When 
people know how to spend their money for noble purposes, 
they will not care for the what, but for the how not for the 
bigness, grandeur, or showiness, but for the taste, for the 
beauty of their life surroundings. When people in a nation 
or community have sufficient nobility of character to care 
only for the tastefulness and beauty of their life surroundings, 
they will want little to satisfy them, and in that way they will 
not waste the power of industry of the people, such as in 
building big, ugly houses and making long, useless roads. 
When the power of industry of the people in a community or 
nation is nobly directed and not wasted, then the community 
or nation is truly rich, not in money or possession of big, ugly 
houses, but rich in the health of the body and the beauty of 
the soul of its people. . . . Ignoble and wasteful consumption 
not only wastes the power of industry of the people, but it 
makes a just distribution of the fruit of that industry difficult. 



THE idiosyncrasies of the purchasing public, by 
making it difficult for honest men to deal with 
them, result in placing power in the hands of 
sharks of various kinds. It goes without saying 
that such men do not lose the opportunity thus 
presented to them of strengthening their hold on 
the public. By means of a device in all respects 
analogous to the confidence trick of ill repute, 
the middleman has rendered his position, for the 
time being, impregnable. 

Now the confidence trick, as is well known, 
is a dodge for imposing on simple-minded people 
by securing their confidence in the first instance, 
and then using it later for the purpose of swindling 
them. There are, of course, commercial possi- 
bilities in the idea, and our large distributing 
houses have not been backward in discovering 
them. It has become the chief corner-stone of 
their monopolies. The modus operandi is as 
follows : The custom and confidence of the public 
are secured in the first place by tempting their 
cupidity, and then advantage is taken of the repu- 



tation for cheapness thus created to sell them 
something at an exorbitant price. In the furni- 
ture trade, for instance, certain things in general 
demand, such as chests of drawers, bureaus, chairs, 
small tables, etc., are not only invariably sweated 
and jerried, but as often as not are sold without 
profit, while larger pieces, such as dining-tables, 
sideboards, bookcases, etc., carry good profits. 
Again, the simpler kinds of furniture are sold at 
cost price, and the more elaborate pieces at an 
exorbitant one. Facts of this kind are well known 
to everybody, but the social and economic impli- 
cations of the practice are little understood. 

'Now, although this system of manipulated prices 
is to the advantage of large firms, it is not in 
the interests of the public, who are made to pay, 
on the whole, more for what they have to buy 
than would be the case with straightforward deal- 
ing. But what is worse than this is that it is 
utterly fatal to the small man, and defeats the 
ends of those who are working for industrial 
reform. The reason is simple. In a state of 
things in which the selling price of any particular 
article bears little or no relation to the actual 
cost of production, it is apparent that it is only 
possible to make a business pay by dealing in 
a large variety of goods. The small man cannot 
do this, and the craftsman finds not only that it 
limits the range of his activities, but that it 
destroys public confidence in him. 

The craftsman, like all persons of taste, hates 
the meretricious ornament with which commercial 


firms spoil their products, and he desires to pro- 
mote a taste for simple, straightforward design 
of good proportion. But he finds that if he 
knocks off five shillingsworth of cheap ornament 
he knocks five pounds off the selling price of the 
piece, for the public compares his price with the 
goods that are sold without profit for the purpose 
of creating a market for the sham ornamental 
ones, and this destroys public confidence in him. 
Even when a person can afford to pay, he imagines 
the craftsman is asking a fancy price. Machinery, 
it is true, is the enemy of craftsmanship, but a 
far greater enemy in the immediate sense is this 
system of manipulated prices, which checkmates 
the craftsman absolutely while it secures the 
market for commercial firms. The paradox about 
this commercial confidence trick is that it operates 
to destroy public confidence in honest men. 

Exactly to what extent this system obtains it 
would only be possible to say after long and 
careful investigation. It certainly does so in all 
trades in which the element of taste enters, and 
which are subject to the control of the middleman. 
This is natural, for such trades lend themselves 
so perfectly to bluff and humbug when handled 
for commercial purposes. Generally speaking, the 
middleman in these trades is an interloper. In a 
healthy society he would not exist, but the crafts- 
man would work direct for the public, for in the 
long run it is only possible for him to produce 
beautiful things if he works in this way. In 
catering for a definite and known public the crafts- 


man finds himself. But when he is separated from 
it, as is too often the case to-day, he suffers from 
an inability to focus his ideas, and his work 
rapidly degenerates. 

A consideration of such issues testifies to the 
distance we have wandered from the path of 
righteousness in our economic (arrangements. The 
true function of the middleman is to bring together 
the producer and consumer for their mutual 
benefit, and in certain departments of trade he is 
indispensable. But in trades like the furniture 
trade he is an intruder, and has usurped functions 
which do not properly belong to him. The best 
proof of this is that in such a trade his whole 
aim and purpose is not to bring the producer and 
consumer together for their mutual benefit, but 
to keep them apart for his own. 

The growth of the power of the middleman 
is one of the most alarming symptoms of the 
age, for it means finally the passing of the control 
of industry out of the hands of the actual makers 
and producers of things into the hands of 
financiers pure and simple, who have no interest 
in things apart from considerations of profit and 
loss. This is an unmixed evil, not merely because 
such men will lack that sense of honour in respect 
to the tradition of a trade which is the birthright 
of every craftsman, but because this change lies 
at the root of the intellectual rot which has over- 
taken the modern world. 

Of course, it is easy to understand why the 
middleman has become so powerful in modern 


society. It is one of the results 'of quantitative 
production. In the old days of qualitative pro- 
duction local markets obtained, and the producer 
and consumer were in direct relations with each 
other. The middleman confined his attention to 
such things as could not be produced locally. 
But with the introduction of the system of the 
division of labour and the invention of machinery 
goods of every kind became too numerous to 
be disposed of locally. It became necessary to 
go further and further afield in search of markets, 
so little by little the middleman grew in im- 
portance. Still, for a long time he remained the 
middleman. He did not aspire to the control of 
production, which was still regarded as the func- 
tion of the man with technical training. The 
change which is increasingly transferring the con- 
trol of industry into the hands of men without any 
such training is due to the pressure of competition. 
So long as demand exceeded supply, the technical 
man came to his position as the controller of 
industry as a matter of course. But with the 
growth of large organizations and the increase 
of the pressure of competition, a time came when 
the technical man could no longer set up in busi- 
ness on his own account, for it was necessary 
to make sure of the market before starting ; and 
the only man who could do this was the commercial 
traveller or the man possessed of capital, who 
was in a position to spend huge sums on adver- 
tising. Hence it has come about that the middle- 
man^ in his capacity as financier, has succeeded to 


the technical man in the control of industry. The 
consequence is, not only that technical competence 
has ceased to command its proper remuneration, 
but that it has ceased to be respected. And 
ceasing to be respected, it is suffering a decline. 
" ,Why should I fag to make myself competent, 
when nowadays incompetent men succeed best? " 
was the reply I got recently from an apprentice 
whom I had criticized for his indolence. And 
I found it difficult to answer, for what he said 
was only too true. 

I said the growth of the power of the middleman 
is one of the most alarming symptoms of the age. 
How 'to destroy this power is the problem of 
industrial reformers. Economists who neglect it 
and discourse about the relations of the producer 
and the consumer are really living in the eighteenth 
century, since neither of them has any real power 
to-day. They have both been enslaved by the 
middleman in his capacity as financier. 


PASSING on to consider ways and means of 
emancipating the producer and consumer from 
their enslavement by the middleman, two possible 
and complementary lines of action present them- 
selves. One is to attack the problem from the 
position of the producer, the other is to attack 
it from that of the consumer. Let us consider it 
in the first place from the position of the former. 
Now, from the point of view of the producer 
in his capacity of wage-slave, the term middle- 
man may be taken to connote anybody who lives 
by the exploitation of labour, whether he be 
merchant, shopkeeper, or actual employer. The 
employer to-day is a middleman in the sense 
that he treats labour as a commodity to be bought 
in the cheapest market. He has succeeded in 
depressing wages by taking advantage of the 
economic weakness of the wage-earner, and the 
workers have failed for the most part to resist his 
encroachments. The reason for this is, I think, 
that the workers have hitherto failed to perceive 
exactly where the weakness of the employers 

really is to be found. 



Instead of choosing their own ground and 
fighting for the maintenance of a standard in 
production, where they would be tactically strong, 
they have allowed the employers to fight them on 
economic grounds, where they are the weaker. 
To strike for quality would indeed hit the em- 
ployers in a very tender place. They would 
find an attack of such a kind difficult to meet. 
No firm could afford to have all the little tricks 
and dodges by which it seeks to cheapen pro- 
duction brought to the public notice. The 
workers ought to play this card for all it is 
worth, and they would find themselves in a posi- 
tion not only to get recognition, but higher wages. 
Moreover, it would secure public sympathy and 
support for the Unions. They would gain in 

So long as the Unions fight only for higher 
wages and shorter hours, the public not un- 
naturally suppose that they have no other interest 
in life except to get as much for doing as little 
as possible. But a strike for quality would 
raise the plane of the struggle. The capitalists 
for once would be seen in their true colours as 
rogues and tricksters. They would no longer 
be able to hide their baseness by making a scape- 
goat of the British working man. The truth 
would be out, and capitalism would lose its last 
moral support. 

I feel well advised in recommending this line 
of action, not only because of the immediate 
benefits which would accrue from, it, but because 


it is an indispensable step> which must be taken 
before the Guilds can be restored. Let us always 
remember that a Guild is a privileged body, 
and privileges are impossible without respon- 
sibilities. It is not to be expected that the 
public could be persuaded to grant privileges 
to men unless they could be assured that they 
would not be abused. Sooner or later this issue 
is bound to be raised. And we shall be in 
a much better position to face it if we can 
bring evidence to show that the workers are 
actively interested in the maintenance of a 
standard of quality in production. Trade 
Unionists should take to heart the lesson which 
the regulation of the Mediaeval Guild system 
teaches us that the best way to protect the 
standard of life of the craftsman is ultimately 
to protect the standard of quality in crafts- 
manship . 

In the affirmation of this truth is to be found 
the most fundamental divergence from Collec- 
tivist opinion. Collectivists always talk as if 
the social problem was entirely a matter of 
detailed arrangement. They seem to be quite 
unconscious of the fact that in society there is 
a constant struggle between right and wrong, 
and that that struggle can never be eliminated. 
It is inherent, and in the very constitution of 
things. What, however, we may do is to raise 
the plane of the struggle. When we talk about 
the need of a redistribution of the wealth 
of the community, we are apt to forget that the 


existing struggle for wealth is the result of 
emptying life of its content, and that it can 
only be by bringing back! into life the things 
which filled it in the past that the economic 
motive may be brought again into subjection. 
The only way of finally combating the evils 
consequent upon the pursuit of a low motive 
is by exalting the claims of a higher one. So 
long as this emptiness is allowed to continue, 
avarice will remain to fill the vacuum, and I 
think that so long as the battle is fought 
primarily according to the dictates of avarice 
the capitalists will continue to triumph, for with 
them it is the dominating motive, whereas with 
the workers it is a regrettable necessity. .When 
I say this, I am not unmindful of the fact that 
the appeal to the avarice of the many has served 
a certain immediate purpose in creating that 
spirit of unrest which is necessary to the solu- 
tion of the social problem, and that the motive 
of the Socialist movement has been idealism 
rather than avarice. Avarice is a powerful 
weapon for destructive purposes, and in so far 
as it is necessary to work for the destruction 
of the present order of society we have perhaps 
no option but to use it. But we must not forget 
that it is useless for the purposes of recon- 
struction. The spirit of co-operation is anti- 
pathetic to it. Self-sacrifice rather than self- 
interest must be its corner-stone. 

Looked at from this point of view, the present 
situation is paradoxical, and its contradictions 


are, perhaps, only to be reconciled on the basis 
of the old idea of co-operation within the group 
and warfare outside of it. Any way, we can 
be sure that at the present juncture we are 
right in advoeating the strike for quality, for 
in it both motives will come into play. The 
higher the workers can raise the standard of 
production, the easier it will be for them to 
get control of industry, because the financier is 
ultimately incapable of organizing industry on 
a basis of quality. Only the craftsman can do 
that. The preference of the financier for quantity 
rather than quality is easily understood. If he 
produces for quality he is dependent upon 
the actual workers in a far higher degree than 
if he produces for quantity. In the former case 
he must give great attention to detail, and must 
choose his men carefully with regard to their 
special aptitudes. But in the latter one man 
is as good as another. All he wants is unskilled 
men whom he can sweat and bully, and this 
more accords with his temperament and intelli- 
gence. Hence it is the more the workers can 
raise the standard of quality in production, the 
more they will limit the range of the capitalists' 
activities, and will finally succeed in exorcising 
him to the nether regions from whence he arose 
in response to the incantations of our orthodox 

The protection of a standard of excellence 
in craftsmanship was, as I observed in an earlier 
chapter, the vitalizing principle of the Guilds. 


The nearer we approach this ideal, the more we 
shall see the necessity for a revival of Guilds in 
their old form. A criticism which has often 
been hurled at Trade Unions is that by insisting 
upon equality of payment they offered no induce- 
ment to the workman to become expert in his 
craft. It has generally been made by the oppo- 
nents of Trade Unionism, and when used to 
account for the decline of quality in production 
it is, as an explanation, beneath contempt. 

But it contains an element of truth all the 
same. The Mediaeval Guilds had two rates of 
pay, one for the masters and another for the 
journeymen of the craft. It is a natural division, 
and one which I think it will be desirable to 
revive in the future. Wages must not be allowed 
to be settled by competition, but it is desirable 
that excellence be 'rewarded. Some day, perhaps, 
such a principle might be reduced to practice. 
But the Unions will need to secure recognition 

Finally, I must answer a possible objection to 
this strike for quality. It will be said that the 
poor cannot afford wares of a good quality. To 
this I can only answer that it is not finally true. 
Our cheap wares to-day are really very costly, 
because they do not last long. Further, it is 
necessary to add that the best firms would 
welcome strikes for quality, as such a policy 
would protect them against the competition of 
unscrupulous rivals who undercut their prices and 
do dishonest work. This competition reacts also 


against the interests of the working class, for 
the lowering of the standard of production ends 
finally in a lowering of the wages and the 
standard of life of workers, for it places the 
control of industry in the hands of a less 
scrupulous class of employer. 



THE basis of the workers' revolt against the 
tyranny of the middleman and financier must 
be the strike for quality. But strikes at the 
best are negative measures, and if the middle- 
man is to be eliminated, it can only be by means 
of action of a positive kind. 

The true function of the middleman, as I 
have already pointed out, is to bring the pro- 
ducer and consumer together for their mutual 
benefit, and in so far as he fulfils that function 
he performs a necessary service to society. Un- 
fortunately, to-day he is not content to confine 
his actions to his legitimate sphere. In invading 
the crafts he has usurped functions which do 
not properly belong to him, for craftsmanship 
is only possible when the public and the crafts- 
man are known to each other. Otherwise the 
craftsman comes to be dictated to by the sales- 
man, which with men who have an interest in 
their work is an intolerable tyranny. In these 
circumstances it will be necessary for us to 
differentiate between the two types of industry 



which nowadays are controlled by the middle- 
man, namely those in which he performs a 
legitimate function and those in which he is 
an intruder. ( 

In the Middle Ages the distribution of wares 
was in the hands of the Guild merchants. Yet, 
though I advocate the revival of the Guilds in 
the sphere of production, I do not think it is 
desirable to revive them in the sphere of dis- 
tribution. We are safe in leaving the produc- 
tion of craftsmanship in private hands when con- 
trolled by Guilds, for, as the craftsman comes 
to have a pride in the work of his hands, he 
naturally retains a high sense of honour in his 
trade relationship. But with occupations con-^ 
nected with buying and selling it is different. 
The temptations of gain are there too strong 
to be resisted by the average human being, and 
so it is not desirable to leave them in private 
hands. In so far, therefore, as the middleman 
is inevitable, we shall, I think, be well advised 
to support the Co-operative Movement l in its 
efforts to supplant him, but with this proviso, 
that it is desirable to place a limit to the size 
of each separate society, as there is no other 
way of safeguarding the movement against the 
vices of bureaucracy. 

1 While we support the Co-operative Movement, let us 
remember its limitations. "Economic co-operation runs to 
quantity, because quantity is something that can be proved to 
everybody's satisfaction ; meanwhile, quality, which is in- 
capable of proof, is apt to suffer " (From the Human End, by 
L. P. Jacks). 


So far, so good. We may safely look to 
the Co-operative Movement to eliminate the 
middleman where hitherto he has been indis- 
pensable. But, as I have already pointed out, 
in certain fields of industry the middleman is 
an intruder, and we are not justified in allowing 
even the Co-operative Societies to trespass on 
the domains of the craftsman, for the problem 
here is not how to capture the trade of the 
middleman, but how to dispense with his services 
altogether. This problem is not to be solved by 
the ordinary operations of demand and supply. 
Before it will be possible to bring the crafts- 
man and the public into mutual and reciprocal 
relationships with each other it will be necessary 
to restore public confidence in the integrity of 
the craftsman and to expose the tricks of the 
middleman by means of an active propaganda 
movement on the craftsman's behalf. In con- 
nection with such a movement there might be 
established what I might call " introduction 
agencies," which would aim at bringing the 
public and craftsmen into direct contact with 
each other. Such agencies would need to be 
subsidized in some way if they were to be effec- 
tive. It would be impossible for an agency 
which lived by commissions to expose the system 
of manipulated prices by which the middleman 
has established his monopoly, for if it did it 
would not be believed. Moreover, if it lived 
by commissions it would be compelled to keep 
the craftsman and the public apart as the middle- 

man does. This has always been the difficulty 
connected with galleries which exhibit arts and 
crafts. The reason why such galleries have in- 
variably departed from their original purpose 
is that their financial basis can only be maintained 
by keeping the craftsmen in the background. 

At first an agency of this kind would have 
to make use of such craftsmen as it found at 
its hand. But as its position became more secure 
and it came to promote the interests of new men, 
it would be able to facilitate a transition towards 
a revival of Guilds. At a later date, when 
the machinations of the middlemen had been 
thoroughly exposed, such agencies could be 
financed by the Guilds until such time as local 
markets were restored, when they would become 

To what extent organization on this basis is 
possible it is difficult to say ; but production in 
small workshops is very much more general than 
is usually supposed. London and Birmingham 
are full of small workshops. An enormous per- 
centage of the goods which are sold in the West 
End are still made in small workshops, and 
these workshops are likely to continue, for factory 
conditions do not lend themselves to the pro- 
duction of goods which require taste and dis- 
crimination on the part of the workers. Some 
of the goods so produced carry enormous retail 
profits, and it would be expedient to make a 
start with them, as by taking away from the 
middleman the most profitable part of his trade 


he would be compelled in self-defence to raise 
his prices for those things which are sold at 
less than their real value. This raising of prices 
would enable us to lift certain trades out of 
the sweated condition in which they find them- 
selves to-day. 



HITHERTO in my analysis I have treated the 
social problem, as a purely industrial affair, 
leaving out agriculture. This order was inevit- 
able, because, as we mostly live in towns nowa- 
days, we are accustomed to view things primarily 
from the industrial standpoint. There is no harm 
in this so long as we clearly recognize that the 
industrial problem is in its ultimate analysis 
inseparable from the agricultural one. I must 
insist upon this, for though Collectivists view 
an agricultural revival with a certain sympathy, 
they nevertheless utterly fail to recognize its 
fundamental importance. They are inclined to 
accept the fact that we are an industrial com- 
munity and to seek a solution of industrial 
problems as separate and detached issues. 

This, however, is impossible. The fact that 
we have to such a large extent become an indus- 
trial community is precisely what makes the social 
problem so difficult to handle. " A society/' says 
Mr. Lowes Dickinson, " that is to be politically 
stable must be economically independent." That 



opinion receives ample torroboration from the 
testimony of history. Communities which have 
been more or less self-contained have persisted 
for thousands of years, but no community which 
has once become dependent upon an extensive 
foreign trade has retained its prosperity for over 
a limited period. The history of Carthage and 
Athens, as of Venice and Genoa, demonstrate the 
fleeting nature of such prosperity. The explana- 
tion is simple. The more a nation becomes 
dependent upon foreign trade, the more it tends 
to find itself at the mercy of forces which it is 
powerless to control. 

It is impossible to resist the conclusion that 
so long as industry is dependent upon foreign 
markets so long will the workers continue to 
be exploited, because an extensive foreign trade 
is dependent ultimately upon capitalist adven- 
turers. The workers become parasitic upon the 
capitalist, because he alone can find the market. 
It is all very well to talk about abolishing the 
capitalist, but so long as industry is dependent 
upon foreign markets he remains indispensable, 
because only a man whose control of labour is 
absolute can act with the promptness and decision 
necessary to adjust the labour of the workers 
to the uncertainty and fluctuations of distant 
markets. In other words, so long as industry 
is dependent upon foreign markets production 
will be very much of a gamble, and such a 
condition, I am persuaded, is incompatible with 
the democratic organization of industry. 


Once the fact is grasped that the economic 
dependence of the workers is bound up with 
an extensive foreign trade, as it is with large 
industries and the division of labour, it follows 
that their emancipation is bound up with small 
industries and local markets. Only under such 
conditions have the workers a chance. The 
master of a small workshop can only maintain 
his foothold amid stable economic circumstances, 
such as obtain with local markets. If his market 
is thousands of miles away he inevitably falls 
under the control of the financier or middleman. 
The same thing would happen if the workers 
were organized into Guilds. They would come 
to be dependent upon a financial class of men 
who organized the market for them, and, like 
capitalists, they would be compelled to resort 
to the same tricks to hold it. But if agricul- 
ture were revived the home market would become 
available. The workers would have their feet 
on a solid economic foundation. If they were 
sure of the home market they could engage in 
foreign trade to a limited extent, and no harm 
would come to them, because the home market 
would guarantee their independence. But to be 
absolutely dependent upon foreign markets is 
a different matter. It is to place themselves at 
the mercy of economic forces which they are 
powerless to control. 

Looking at our industrial system from this 
point of view, it is evident that the large industry, 
though perhaps here and there inevitable, will 


not, to anything like the same extent, bulk so 
largely in the future as it does to-day. It 
is evident, for instance, that we shall need fewer 
railways, their present abnormal development 
being due to the growth of cross distribution 
and the aggregation bf population into towns. 
With a more reasonable distribution of popu- 
lation between urban and rural areas, and the 
revival of small workshops and local markets, 
which we may safely anticipate in the future, rail- 
ways will shrink into comparative insignificance. 
I cannot endorse Mr. H. G. Wells 's prediction 
that we shall travel more and more in the future 
though we doubtless will in the immediate 
future because this tendency is necessarily 
accompanied by a growth of social instability 
which sooner or later must provoke a reaction. 
After all, the excessive travelling of to-day is 
largely a reaction against the ugliness of our 
overgrown towns. But when beauty once more 
finds a place in our life surroundings, we may 
expect that the present restlessness will tend to 

It is evident that if ever we are to realize 
such a state of society as I have sketched, trade 
relationships will need to be very carefully regu- 
lated. We shall not be able to leave ourselves 
at the mercy of the whimsicalities of Free Trade, 
for economic stability is impossible in a com- 
munity which places the workers at the mercy 
of fluctuations of prices or subjects them to 
the danger of the importation of sweated goods 
from other lands. On the contrary, while we 


approve of the principle of Protection for the 
principle of Protection is identical with that of 
privilege which underlies the Guild System and 
must give it our support, we must see to it 
that it is administered in the interests of society 
as a whole, and not merely in the interests of 
such capitalists as find themselves in a position 
to bring pressure to bear upon the Government 
to secure privileges for themselves. Our policy 
must be the protection of the standard of life 
of the workers and of quality in craftsmanship, 
which, as I have before explained, go together. 
But this involves a revival of the Mediaeval prin- 
ciples of fixed prices. Protection without fixed 
prices and without Guild control opens wide the 
gate of corruption. There are political possi- 
bilities, I think, in this idea. The workers might 
secure privileges for themselves by supporting 
Protectionists. But they would need to be very 
careful to see that they came out right. It is 
not practical politics to-day, but it might be 

Lest any of my readers should imagine a 
system of fixed prices is impracticable, I might 
say that building contracts to-day are largely 
based on such a system. In a builder's estimate 
most of the prices will be taken direct from 
Laxton's Builders' Price Book. The variations 
are confined to a few items, where the builder 
exercises his own judgment. In Lancashire also 
the cotton operatives have a most elaborate 
system of piece-work rates, which are arranged 
between the Trade Unions and the employers. 



A FRANK recognition of the fleeting nature of 
the national prosperity which is based upon an 
extensive foreign trade would carry us a long 
way towards the formulation of a true social 
policy. But I fear such a recognition will be 
difficult to get : "a reformer is a person who 
wants to reform other people, but not himself," 
Mr. Dooley once cynically remarked ; and I 
regret to say it contains a large element of truth, 
for the difficulty which stands in the way of social 
reform is finally that we are not open to consider 
any scheme which seriously interferes with the 
Jives to which each one of us seems irrevocably 
committed. t We are town bred, and we don't 
particularly care for ideas of reform which would 
turn a great percentage of us into agricultural 
workers . 

I can sympathize with such feelings. I know 
how difficult it would be for me to abandon 
town life and to work in the country. And yet 
intellectual honesty compels me to affirm that, 
apart from a change in the nature of the activities 

which make up our lives, there is no solution for 



our problems. In a really healthy society there 
would exist a certain ratio between the rural and 
urban populations. .What that ratio should be I 
am not prepared to say. But that there exists 
a gross disproportion between the two to-day, 
few will be found to deny. The present depres- 
sion in agriculture reacts to aggravate the in- 
dustrial problem by driving the countryman into 
the towns to compete with the town worker for 
a living, and thus, where it does not actually 
depress the standard rate of wages, prevents 
the town worker from improving his conditions. 

The New Age has repeatedly urged the im- 
portance of the Trade Unions spending money on 
organizing the agricultural workers. This is im- 
portant ; but I would go further than this. I 
think the Unions would be well advised in finan-. 
cing " back to the land " schemes. They should 
buy land and use it for the purpose of transferring 
such of their members as could not find employ- 
ment in their own trades to agricultural occu- 
pations. But the formation of such colonies would 
need to be preceded by the organization of the 
agricultural workers in order to diminish the dis- 
crepancy in wages. 

It will be impossible for me to enter into the 
details of such a scheme, because with the agri- 
cultural problem, as such, I am incompetent to 
deal. Suffice it to say, however, that I recognize 
it as the most fundamental of all. Those, however, 
who are interested in it should study the work of 
the Irish Agricultural Organization Society. So 


far as I gather from its literature, the economic 
problem which confronts the revival of agriculture 
is parallel to that which confronts the revival of 
craftsmanship. In each case the middleman stands 
in the way. The Irish peasant remained poor 
because the middleman, by standing between him 
and his market, was in a position to rob him of 
his earnings, just in the same way as he does 
the craftsman. 

The revival of agriculture would certainly re- 
lieve the pressure of competition in our towns. 
But whether by this means alone a proper ratio 
between urban and rural areas could be estab- 
lished is very much open to question. I am 
inclined to think that there are too many of us 
in this country, and that emigration is necessary 
to the solution of our problems. In this sense 
we have a population problem. The Lords of 
Statistics with their motto : " The more the 
merrier," refuse to recognize it. But that is be- 
cause they regard society as an aggregation of 
individual or atomic units which arc as inter- 
changeable as coins, and are utterly destitute of 
any conception of society as an organism. 

To minds so constituted I can quite understand 
that the population problem has no existence. 
But it is otherwise with those who, having more 
insight into the nature of 'men, realize on what 
terms it is possible for them to co-operate. Like 
Aristotle, they perceive that the 'problems of 
Government increase with an excess of population. 
The Greeks boldly faced this situation, and when 


the population of their cities became too big 
to be manageable, sent out their citizens to 
establish new colonies. iWith us emigration is 
largely left to individual initiative, and the result 
is not only that we do not emigrate in sufficient 
numbers, but we emigrate in a wrong spirit. The 
man who emigrates alone separates from his 
friends, and rarely settles down in the land of his 
adoption in the way that Italians and Eastern 
Europeans do, who always emigrate in groups. 
He cherishes the hope of making a pile and return- 
ing home. It is this spirit that has corrupted 
colonial life and has brought into existence social 
problems like our own. There are no cities in 
the world which suffer more from overcrowding 
than the Canadian towns. Speculation has raised 
land values so high that it is only by crowding 
houses together that building schemes can be made 
to pay. 

The opinion of Aristotle that the problem of 
government is largely the problem of numbers 
receives ample support from the writings of Mr. 
E. L. Godkin. In Unforeseen Tendencies of 
Democracy, Mr. Godkin shows how the decline 
of the ideal of American Democracy is to be 
traced ultimately to the increase in the numbers 
of voters. In the early days of American Demo- 
cracy, when the voters were few, men of character 
were personally well known in the community, 
and such men became public representatives, be- 
cause of their prominence. But with the rapid 
increase of emigration the members of society 


ceased to be well known to each other, and 
then the trouble began. A capacity for public 
speaking rather than personal character became 
the primary qualification for public life, because 
only good speakers could 'become sufficiently well 
known to the electorate. With this change there 
came a deterioration in the type of public repre- 
sentative, for a capacity for public speaking pro- 
vides no guarantee for either wisdom or character. 
Following this decline of the calibre of the 
public representative came the growth of the power 
of the " machine," which could automatically pro- 
duce majorities in favour of any candidate which 
it chose to support. With this came political 
corruption and jobbery. The same kind of thing 
is happening here. The party system has gradu- 
ally destroyed the independence of the private 
member, and can automatically produce majorities ; 
but we have not sunk so low as America, and 
it is quite possible that we never shall, for the 
tradition of public life is much stronger here, 
and the Englishman is not so single-hearted as 
is the American in the pursuit of the dollar. But 
we are travelling in the same direction, and it is 
necessary for us to pause and think. The evil 
in each case is the same, namely that the units 
of organization are too large, so that men can 
no longer be well known to each other. A healthy 
public life is impossible when a man ceases to 
be known to his next-door neighbour, and this 
phenomenon is the inevitable accompaniment of 
large cities and large organizations. 



IT is evident that if the reform of society is to 
proceed in the direction I have indicated, and 
small industries and local markets are to take 
the place of large industries and universal markets, 
the professions will shrink into comparative in- 

In Civilization: Its Cause and Cure, Mr. 
Edward Carpenter contrasts the health, vigour, 
and immunity from disease of the barbarian with 
the unhealthiness of civilized man, pointing out, 
incidentally, that the growth of the number of 
doctors in our society is not indicative of the 
increase of health, but of disease. The same 
principle may be applied to all the professions. 
Their growth in every case is symptomatic of the 
growth of disease in one form or another. The 
growth of the number of lawyers is a sign of 
the growth of disease in the body politic, while 
the growth of the number of architects is indi- 
cative of the growth of disease in architecture 
and the building trades. Further, the professions 
to-day are overcrowded. In every one of them 

10 1 


there are many more attempting to earn a living 
at them than is warranted by the amount of work 
which requires to be done ; from which fact it 
appears that the abnormal growth of the pro- 
fessions is itself indicative of a still more serious 
disease in the community as a whole. 

ftV2ien we seek for an explanation of this 
phenomenon, we find it in the misapplication of 
machinery. It is evident that as machine produc- 
tion extends its area, and handicraft is destroyed, 
it obliges almost everybody, who is under the 
necessity of earning a living, to attempt to get a 
footing in the class higher than the one in which 
he was born. The immediate effect of machine 
production was to increase enormously the number 
of commercial travellers, shopkeepers, and middle- 
men of various kinds. Throughout the nineteenth 
century such people who constituted the middle 
class became very prosperous, for a large pro- 
portion of the increased wealth of the community 
found its way into their hands. But a point came 
at last when the limit of expansion of this class 
was reached, and from that time forward the 
increase of the middle class has been accompanied 
by an increase in the pressure of competition. As 
the rising generation of the middle class could 
not go back to handicraft, owing to the spread 
of machine production, it has pressed itself forward 
into the professions. It is true that other influences 
have been at work, such as the desire of the 
more prosperous members of the middle class to 
secure social prestige by educating their sons for 


the professions ; but the economic pressure which' 
followed the misapplication of machinery has in- 
creasingly driven them in this upward direction 
by forcing upon the rising generation the choice 
between struggling for a living in the profes- 
sions or being enslaved as a clerk, or shop 
assistant, by some large organization which had 
come about as a result of the increase of competi- 
tion in the middle class. Needless to say, every 
member of the class who was in a position to 
do so chose to fight in the professions. 

The fact that the growth of the number of 
doctors is indicative of the growth of disease is 
self-evident, and as Mr. Carpenter has dealt with 
this issue at some length, I will not do more than 
mention it. But the application of the same 
principle is not so apparent in the case of lawyers 
and architects. 

Everybody knows that the law to-day does not 
secure justice. Yet it is only the philosopher who 
understands that a codified law is incompatible 
with justice. In England to-day, as in Rome, 
the idea is that if the law is to be administered 
impartially it must be administered impersonally. 
It is supposed that if the judge is personally 
known to the accused he will be influenced one 
way or another, and that this will defeat the ends 
of justice. We have become so accustomed to 
this way of thinking that we accept it as a dogma. 
And yet nothing can be further from the truth, 
for we can only be just to a man when we know 
his personal character and can enter into the 


difficulties and circumstances of his life. The 
member of a class which has command of 
circumstances, and who enjoys freedom of choice 
in most of his actions, is rarely able to sympathize 
with the man who is at the mercy of circumstances. 
Hence the class prejudice which disgraces the 
English Bench. The Greeks who worked out 
the basis of Law for Greek law underlies the 
Roman Law realized the personal nature of 
justice. Aristotle affirms that justice is only pos- 
sible in small communities. "- The magistrates," 
he says, " can neither determine causes with justice 
nor issue their orders with propriety unless they 
know the character of their fellow-citizens ; so 
that whenever this happens not to be the case 
the State must of necessity be badly managed ; 
for it is not right to determine too hastily and 
without proper knowledge, as is more or less in- 
evitable if the citizens are too many." Further, 
he gives us some idea as to the size of such a 
community. " Ten men," he says, " are too few 
for a city ; a hundred thousand are too many." 
And in this connection we should know that by 
City is implied " State," for the Greek States 
were City States. 

In the village communities, under which agri- 
culture was everywhere organized prior to the 
growth of Feudalism, such conditions obtained. 
In them the administration of justice was a 
personal affair, governed by custom and tradition. 
According to Kropotkin, " every dispute was 
brought first before mediators and arbiters, and 


it mostly ended with them, the arbiters playing 
a very important part in barbarian society. But 
if the case was too grave to be settled in this 
way, it came before the folkmote, which was 
bound ' to find the sentence ' and pronounce it 
in a conditional form ; that is, ' such compensation 
was due if the wrong be proved,' and the wrong 
had to be proved or disclaimed by six or twelve 
persons confirming or denying the fact by oath ; 
ordeal being resorted to in case of contradiction 
between the two sets of jurors." 

Justice to-day has become an aspiration or in- 
tellectual concept ; it can only be realized objec- 
tively amid primitive conditions of society. The 
reason for this is that it is only under such con- 
ditions that law, morality, and fact are inseparable 
from each other. The trouble appears to begin 
when one people is conquered and becomes sub- 
ject to the domination of another, and the idea 
of justice gives place to the idea of how the 
conquering race can best organize its military 
superiority for the purposes of orderly government . 
A people who were actuated primarily by the 
motive of justice would never seek to become 
a large State. Unfortunately for the happiness 
of the world, this motive has rarely been the 
dominant one. The love of conquest and pow_er 
has always exercised a fascination for people whose 
character and circumstances enabled them to 
gratify it. And so conditions have come into 
existence under which justice has become a dream 
rather than a reality, and recourse has been made 


to law, not with the idea of administering justice, 
but as a rough-and-ready instrument for the 
purpose of maintaining order in the external affairs 
of life. The enforcement of order tends to make 
law more and more impersonal, and to widen 
the gulf which separates it from justice. 

Such is the reason or basis of the legal pro- 
fession. The attainment of order rather than 
justice is the object of its ambition. As such, 
its existence is symptomatic of the disease of 
society. In the Greek City States the lawgiver 
was the philosopher, and it is only on such terms 
that justice is possible, because alone among men 
the philosopher sees the reason of things and 
can relate the idea of justice to human possibili- 
ties. The lawyer makes no such pretensions. 
His love of hair-splitting technicalities, which has 
made the law a lottery, is itself evidence of a 
lack of breadth of vision. He follows the line 
of least resistance, and the line of least resistance 
in each case is to give legal sanction to what is 
established, no matter how it has been established. 
The abandonment of the ideal of justice has been 
followed by the growth of social confusion, and 
the growth of confusion involves the extension 
of legalism. The spread of legalism tends to 
reduce to impotence every limb of the body politic. 
It is a vicious circle from which there is no 
escape apart from a return to first principles. 

Any attempt to give application to such first 
principles in modern society necessarily appears 
Utopian and impracticable. It would be easy 


to lay down the principte that every man has a 
right to be judged by his peers that such bodies, 
for instance, as Trade Unions should exercise the 
rights of jurisdiction over their own members as 
the Guilds did in the Middle Ages. But the 
spirit of the age blocks the way. Not until 
the spirit of competition and mutual suspicion 
can be replaced by one of co-operation and mutual 
confidence is such a change to be thought of. 
In the meantime the evil inherent in the existing 
legal system should be reduced to a minimum 1 
by limiting the fees of the advocate while de- 
priving him of his monopoly of the Bench. Only 
in the United States of America and this country 
does the advocate enjoy this monopoly. The pro- 
motion of laymen to the Bench would bring a 
breath of common sense into our fusty legal 

IT will be convenient for us, before considering 
the profession of the architect, to consider the 
position of the trade designer. I do not call 
it a profession, because the trade designer has 
not the status of the professional man, though 
the function he is supposed to fulfil is sufficiently 
important to warrant it. 

When we consider that the trade designer 
is responsible equally with the architect for the 
design of all those things which combine to make 
the environment of our lives, it is a strange com- 
ment on our social and 'industrial arrangements 
that he enjoys no status. 'He is not recognized 
as an artist, and yet the abilities needed to per- 
form his function properly are far greater than 
those required by the average painter, for paint- 
ing in these days is for the most part an imitative 
art, whilst design is a creative one, and as such 
is entitled to take a higher rank. It is, in fact, 
the very essence of art ; for, strictly speaking, 
painting only becomes an art when it is used 
as a medium of expression by men who arc con- 
versant with the arts of design. 



Yet we gratuitously bestow the title of artist 
on every imitative dabbler in paint, and not only 
withhold it from those who pursue a vocation 
which demands really creative gifts, but are con- 
tent 'to condemn them to a lifelong servitude ta 
salesmen and bagmen, who, by dictating to them 
how things shall be done, have assumed the func- 
tion of censors of public taste. Nearly all trade 
designers are in this position. They have become 
the unwilling slaves of commercial organizations, 
and the degradation of the products of indus- 
trialism bears witness to their servitude. The 
absence of status of the trade designer has re- 
acted upon himself ; and, generally 'speaking, he 
is to-day no better than "his position. He has 
never in his life been given the opportunity of 
using his gifts in a rational way, and his faculties 
have become atrophied in consequence. 

When Socialists talk about reforming indus- 
trialism, I always think of the trade designer, 
for the possibilities of reform depend finally upon 
a change in his status, and, if we accept in- 
dustrialism, I cannot think of any scheme which 
could possibly alter it for the better. His present 
subordination is involved in the whole structure 
of industrialism. Under the old mediaeval system 
of qualitative production the designer, craftsman, 
and salesman were for the most part one and the 
same person, and where they were not actually 
identical they were in such close contact with 
each other as to work harmoniously together. 

The consequence was that the mediaeval crafts- 


man was independent ; he had some control over 
the circumstances of his industry. But when 
quantitative was substituted for qualitative pro- 
duction the designer lost his independence. Class 
divisions came into industry, and so he, separated 
from the craftsman, became subject to the control 
of the salesman, who in turn was controlled by 
the financier. In this position he will remain 
so long as quantitative production obtains, because 
with such an ideal it is natural that those who are 
primarily concerned with quantitative output will 
be in a stronger economic position and take pre- 
cedence over those whose concern is with the 
quality of the wares produced. So long as the 
trade designer remains in this position production 
will flounder for the lack of any clear direction ; 
for there is, finally, only one man who can direct 
the power of industry into its proper channels, 
namely the artist, and quantitative production 
denies the designer this status. 

This is the "dilemma in which modern industry 
finds itself. Literally the tail wags the dog. A 
system of organization which subordinates the 
primary functions of designing and making things 
to the secondary ones of buying and selling is 
clearly on a false basis. It is fundamentally 
unsound, and no sophistry can make it otherwise. 
Socialists who imagine that a solution of industrial 
problems is possible on a basis of quantitative 
productiop would be required to show how the 
four classes of men involved in production to-day 
the financiers, salesmen, designers, and work- 


men could be made to co-operate together. This 
they can only do by ignoring the psychological 
problem involved. You cannot have two Caesars 
in the same camp, and for the same reason the 
artist and the financier can never co-operate 
together except on terms which make them 
mutually independent of each other. .Work to- 
gether in the same organization they cannot. One 
of them must rule, and under a system of quanti- 
tative production it will be the financier who 
will do so, as under qualitative production it will 
be the artist and philosopher. It is the privilege 
of democracy to decide between them. If it 
allows its cupidity to be tempted and supports 
quantitative production, the financier remains to 
exploit it for its folly. But if on the other hand 
it supports qualitative production, then power will 
gradually pass into the hands of the artist and 
philosopher, and democracy will be rewarded with 
liberty. For the ideal of the artist is ultimately 
democratic, though immediately his action is auto- 
cratic ; whereas the financier is immediately 
democratic and ultimately autocratic. 

I say, then, that the artist's ideal is democratic. 
He knows only too well that he cannot save 
his soul alone. A democratic aim is thrust upon 
him by the needs of self -existence. He knows 
that the only terms on which it is finally possible 
to revive the arts are identical with those which 
will emancipate the workers from the tyranny 
of Industrialism. Quantitative production, by 
destroying craftsmanship, has taken away the 


ground from under the artist's feet. It has 
enabled the financier to enslave the designer, 
and now the evil result is being felt. With- 
out the direction which the artist alone can give, 
production finds itself to-day at the mercy of 
every fashion. There is but one remedy for 
this state of things : to return to the old ways. 
Economic stability finally rests upon intellectual 
and aesthetic stability, and these are impossible 
under a system of production which denies 
everything fundamental, both in art and in life. 
But things are turning in this direction. The 
tremendous growth of the antique trade is one 
of the significant developments of the age. It 
is the answer of the public to the impotence 
and futility of industrialism. It says in so many 
words that the present methods of industry are 
wrong, and that if scientific machinery produces 
such deplorable results, then, judging by results, 
the only sensible thing to do is to seek to revive 
the past. It foreshadows that reaction against 
the deadlock of modernism which in the sphere 
of politics finds its immediate expression in the 
growth of revolutionary feeling, as it will ulti- 
mately seek it in a conscious revival of the 
traditions of the past. 



THAT the growth of professionalism is coinci- 
dent with the growth of social disease in the case 
of the architectural profession as well as in law 
and medicine is an opinion that has been held 
by the highest authorities. In the year 1892 a 
collection of essays by (different architects, edited 
by Mr. R. Norman Shaw, R.A., and Mr. F. G. 
Jackson, R.A., appeared under the provocative 
title, Architecture: A Profession or an Art? The 
object of this book was to affirm the principle 
that the only solution of the problems of archi- 
tecture was to be found in a return to the Mediaeval 
method of building ; and to prove that the archi- 
tectural profession should pursue a policy which 
in the long run would eventuate in the resumption 
by the architect of the position which he occupied 
in the Middle Ages as Master of the Works, co- 
ordinating the work of a group of craftsmen, 
each capable of supplying the details and 
ornaments of their own crafts, much in the 
same way that the conductor of an orchestra 



brings into harmony the efforts of the various 
musicians . i 

Any one who is vitally interested in architecture 
as an art, and is familiar with the economics of 
the profession, will find it impossible to resist 
this conclusion, for as it exists to-day the archi- 
tectural profession has not within itself the elements 
of permanence. It is manifestly in a state of 
transition, and must either pursue a policy which 
will 'aim at the removal of the existing class 
division between the architect and the building 
trades, as in the Middle Ages, or the architect 
must consent to be enslaved by the surveyor. 
It is probable that at the worst there will be 
some architects who will be able to escape this 
fate, owing to exceptional influence. But there 
is no denying' that the general tendency to-day is 
in this direction, and that just as the architect 
enslaved the craftsman, so he, in turn, is being 
enslaved by the surveyor. 

Architects, as they existed during Renaissance 
times, were mainly the exceptional men of the 
building trades who had become specialized in 
design because of their superior gifts. They were 
few in number, and were only employed on the 
most monumental work ; ordinary buildings were 
still designed by the master builders. But this 
is no longer the case. The architectural pro- 
fession in its present proportions has not come 
into existence in response to a demand for archi- 
tecture, but in response to a demand for com- 
mercial building. The immediate cause of the 


rapid expansion was the growth of the contract 
system in building, which brought into existence 
a man to enforce the contracts. This man, 
originally a surveyor or builders' clerk, who knew 
something about the finance of building, but was 
without any pretensions to architectural know- 
ledge, began to call himself an architect because 
he found it commercially advantageous to do so. 
Important work came to be placed in his hands, 
but as he was without the knowledge which would 
have enabled him to make a proper use of his 
opportunities, he made a terrible mess of things. 
The problem to-day is how can the minority of 
real architects leaven this mass of ignorance, which 
owes its existence to the creation of a class of 
practitioners who are qualified to fulfil one func- 
tion, but are entrusted by the public with another 
for which they are unqualified and which can 
only be performed successfully by men of quite a 
different type of mind. This tendency of the pro- 
fession to draw its recruits from non-architectural 
sources is the economic problem in architecture. 
The profession is flooded with men who are 
not in the architectural tradition, but come in 
from the estate agency end of things. In the 
city and in the suburb, generally speaking, the 
man who can control the site can control the job. 
Hence it is that men who are really surveyors 
and estate agents come to handle great archi- 
tectural opportunities, while men whose whole 
training and ability are for architecture often find 
themselves unable to get near the work at all. 


Again, men who have graduated in the building 
trade never to-day rise to the position of archi- 
tects at all. 

The same tendency is observable in public 
architects' offices. The head positions are in- 
variably occupied by surveyors masquerading as 
architects, and if architects are ever to be found 
there, they ate always in inferior, positions. The 
reason for this anomaly is easily understood. The 
surveyor comes first. He is required by public 
bodies for road-making, sewering, and other such 
work. The more utilitarian type of buildings 
comes to be placed in his hands, and thus he 
continues until important work comes within his 
grasp. It is owing to the action of such forces 
that the surveyor is supplanting the architect 

Little more need be said to demonstrate that 
the profession of architecture as it exists to-day 
is on a false basis, and is symptomatic of social 
disease. There was certainly a case for archi- 
tects in the past of the type of John Thorpe and 
Inigo Jones, who were trained as craftsmen, and 
became specialized in later life as architects, be- 
cause of their superior gifts of design. But the 
profession to-day is clearly on a wrong basis, 
when it would entirely deny opportunities to such 
men, had they lived to-day and worked in the 
building trade, whilst offering many opportunities 
to surveyors and estate agents, and would place 
men who have been trained as architects, and 
who do not happen to be men of means and good 


social position, at the mercy of sheer chance. 
Obviously there is something wrong, and though 
within certain limits a remedy for this confusion 
may be found by the exercise of a wise and 
discriminating patronage, yet it is apparent that 
so long as the class division between the architect 
and the building trades remains, a complete solu- 
tion is impossible. 1 

The cause of the enslavement of the building 
trades by the architect was aesthetic, inasmuch 
as the profession owed its existence to the desire 
to revive Roman architecture, of which the crafts- 
men of the building trades were ignorant, and 
naturally brought into existence a type of man 
who was conversant with Roman work. The 
latter-day development which spells the enslave- 
ment of the architect by the surveyor and estate 
agent is economic, and owes its existence finally 
to the growth of big towns, large organizations, 
and the contract system. It is the natural and 
inevitable ending of a false ideal of architecture 
which has separated the architect from the crafts- 
man. The estate agent has come to stand in 
the same relation to the architect without social 
position as the salesman or middleman does to the 
trade designer. The enslavement of the trade 
designer came first, because he only designed small 
things ; the enslavement of the architect is pro- 

1 I hope nobody will accuse me of advocating the abolition 
of the architectural profession. Such would only make 
matters worse. The transition from the architect to the 
master builder is necessarily gradual. 



ceeding to-day. There is no remedy apart from 
a return to former conditions. Architecture is 
incompatible with industrialism 1 , and all efforts 
to graft it on to it must fail in the end. 

THROUGHOUT this book I have repeatedly urged 
the importance of social reformers paying more 
regard to the claims of art, and have drawn 
attention to the economic implications of its 
neglect. It is difficult to overestimate the 
economic confusion which has its origin in the 
change of fashions consequent upon our national 
indifference to all questions appertaining to taste. 
If I have failed to drive this point home I have 
written in vain, for it is the key to one half 
of the problems I have discussed. To me, art 
and economics are as bound together as the 
soul and the body, which are only to be separated 
at death. It is no exaggeration to say that the 
welfare of art is in the end of more importance 
than morality, for morality is a negative thing, 
and can only tell us what not to do, whilst art 
is positive and can tell us what to do. A 
nation which disregards its claims lacks the 
means of expression not only in art but in 
politics as well. It pays for its neglect in a 
thwarted national and social life and in economic 
confusion, for it finds itself at the mercy of 



forces which it can neither control nor under- 
stand. Life which is thwarted returns upon itself 
and seeks by underground and illicit means a 
way of escape. It is not without significance 
that, whilst the greatest achievements of the 
Middle Ages were to be found in the temples 
for worship, our greatest ones are to be found 
in engines of destruction. For the Dreadnought 
bears the same relation to the thought and 
impulse of this age as the cathedral did to the 
Middle Ages the one is built for the protection 
of the body, the other for the protection of the 
soul. And it all comes about because as a 
nation we are occupied exclusively with material 
considerations. We concentrate all our attention 
on the means of civilization, to the utter neglect 
and disregard of the ends which such means 
are to serve. So, instead of public and spiritual 
ends, we serve secret and private ones, which 
stand in the way of any restoration of a 
communal life. 

Let no one think that the contrasts I have 
drawn are mere idle speculations. They are 
only too painfully demonstrable in the terms of 
economics. After immediate physical wants are 
satisfied, a time comes in the history of every 
nation when it finds itself in the possession of 
surplus wealth. Its future history and happiness 
largely depend upon the use it makes of it. In 
the past that surplus was always spent upon 
art, and particularly upon architecture. Pericles, 
who was perhaps the wisest man who ever held 


the reins of power, sought to spend it in this 
way. In answer to some who complained that 
Athens was over-adorned, like a woman wearing 
too many jewels, he replied that surplus wealth 
was best spent in such works as would bring 
eternal glory to the city, and at the same time 
employ her artificers. In the Middle Ages 
surplus wealth was spent upon building 
cathedrals, and the custom, of spending it 
on the arts obtained in history until modern 
times. Following the triumph of Protestantism 
and the plundering of the Church lands, there 
came a relaxation of the mediaeval laws against 
usury in order to accommodate morals to the 
practice of the rich, and along with it came 
an increased private and a decreased public 
expenditure upon architecture. Still the surplus 
continued to be spent mainly in this way, and 
it was not until the introduction of machinery 
that a change gradually took place. From that 
time forward surplus wealth came to be spent 
less and less upon building and more and more 
upon new productive enterprises ; or, in other 
words, it ceased to be consumed, but was re- 
invested for the purposes of a further increase, 
until in our day the proper expenditure of 
surplus wealth has been entirely lost sight of. 
When people build nowadays they no longer 
regard it as a means of consuming a surplus, 
but as a speculation by which they hope to 
increase their riches, and this applies not only 
to building, but to pictures, which are bought 


to-day as investments. This changed attitude 
is really the financial difficulty connected with 
the housing problem, for it is only in modern 
times that houses were ever expected to pay. 
But the evil does not end here. As few 
people nowadays have any disposition to spend 
their surplus in the right way, and as almost 
everybody seeks to use it as a means of further 
increase, the balance which in former times 
existed between demand and supply has been 
utterly destroyed, and the pressure of competi- 
tion has increased. Indirectly this results in 
an increase of personal expenditure, for such 
increase among the well-to-do is necessitated by 
the need of the individual holding his own in 
the competitive social world, which in turn is 
necessitated by the need of securing opportunities 
for the making of more wealth, and in the 
professional classes of a living. Hence the 
general meanness of people in regard to ex- 
penditure upon things of permanent value, and 
hence again our ever-increasing national expen- 
diture upon armaments, which is due to the 
pressure of competition among nations. It is 
a vicious circle from which there is no escape 
so long as people misuse their surplus wealth. 
They decline to spend it on the arts because it 
is unremunerative, and in the end they are com- 
pelled to spend it on armaments, which arc not 
only unremunerative but a peril to their own 
existence. To such a pass have we been brought 
by our faith in a political economy which teaches 


that greed and usury are the pillars of the State ! 
It is the judgment of God, and who can deny 
its justice? 

Our misuse of surplus wealth accounts for 
our excessive use of machinery. Had we never 
lost sight of the ends which production sub- 
serves we should have had need of very little 
machinery. If we had continued to look upon 
architecture and craftsmanship as a means of 
consuming surplus wealth we should have realized 
the utter absurdity of allowing machinery to 
trespass on its domains from the economic as 
well as from the aesthetic point of view. As it 
is, our surplus wealth is spent less and less 
upon the production of those things which in 
the past were regarded as among the ends of 
civilization, and more and more upon the 
machinery of production. Nay, we have gone 
farther ; the more recent development is 
machinery for the purpose of making machinery. 
This I can only call the destructive consumption 
of surplus wealth. We have lost the art of con- 
suming it and have developed the art of destroy- 
ing it ; for that, indeed, is the task upon which 
we are engaged to-day. Hence it is, when men 
like Mr. H. G. Wells and Sir Leo Chiozza 
Money imagine that the way to remedy the evils 
of poverty is to increase the use of machinery, 
they exhibit themselves as the mere slaves of 
circumstance, as is natural with men who con- 
centrate all their attention on the means of 
civilization and disregard the ends. 


Fortunately for me, I am able to point to two 
modern economists who have held the same idea, 
though they have expressed themselves differ- 
ently. Mr. J. A. Hobson, in his analysis of 
the unemployed problem, came to the conclusion 
that the solution was to be found in raising the 
standard of production, which amounts to much 
the same thing ; whilst Mr. J. M. Robertson 
held a similar idea, as readers of his Fallacy 
of Saving will know. Unfortunately, neither of 
them was familiar with the economics of the 
arts, and so failed to reduce their conclusions 
to concrete terms. But their testimony is 
valuable as showing that, from whatever point 
of view the modern problem is approached, 
careful analysis brings us to the same conclusion. 


THERE are two ways of analysing the structure 
of society. We may begin with the nature of 
man and reason to his environment, or we may 
reverse the process. The former is the method 
of the Guildsman, the latter of the Collec- 
tivist. But just as the Collectivism reasoning 
from environment, must come, in the end, to 
definite conclusions about the nature of man, 
so the Guildsman will finally have something 
to say about property, and, as may be expected, 
he will come to different conclusions. 

It goes without saying that the present-day 
distribution of property is absolutely indefen- 
sible ; but that admission does not mean that 
we must accept the Collectivist solution of the 
problem. We may agree that, in an ideal state 
of society, goods would be held in common, and 
that in the distant future such an ideal may be 
realized, and yet recognize that it is altogether 
incompatible with a highly complex state of 
society. Any attempt to give practical appli- 
cation to such a principle would, at the present 
time, lead to greater evils than those from which 
we now suffer ; for in practical affairs we must 



reckon with men as they are, and with the 
problem as it exists, both in regard to the evils 
to be eradicated and the forces at our disposal 
for the purpose of reform. We musi recognize 
that the spirit of avarice pervades our society ; 
that those in possession of property are powerful ; 
and that as most of those who desire a different 
state of affairs live under constant economic 
pressure it is exceedingly difficult for them, 
with the best intentions, to act in an entirely 
disinterested way. These are the factors in the 
present situation, and they are sufficient to make 
any transition to Collectivism impracticable, even 
if it were desirable, which in this connection I 
am persuaded it is not. 

I insist upon a frank recognition of these 
facts because it is only on such terms that it 
will be possible for us to handle the present 
situation with any measure of success. Though 
we may recognize that communism is not imme- 
diately practicable, let us not lose sight of the 
fact that it is our goal ; for we may test the 
value of any idea based upon the necessity of 
compromise by reference to it. If it strengthens 
personal and human ties, then it is making for 
communism, for communism is only possible when 
men and women are bound together in such 
ways. But if it ignore this necessity, and seek 
to substitute for such ties the impersonal activity 
of the State, then it is a certainty that such ideas 
will, in their ultimate workings, prove to be 
anti-communal. This is my objection to the 


nationalization of property. It involves bureau- 
cracy, and as bureaucracy is the impersonal 
instrument of the State, it stands condemned as 
an anti-communal form of organization. 

Recognizing then on the one hand that the 
nationalization of property is not only impractic- 
able but undesirable, and on the other that we 
have become too individualistic in temperament 
to render organization on a communist basis 
practicable for the time being, common sense 
suggests the desirability of reviving the Mediaeval 
attitude towards property, which steers a safe 
middle course between the impracticable and the 
undesirable. The Mediaeval economists, who 
appear to have debated the question of property 
very thoroughly, finally threw over Plato's idea 
of common property and private use in favour 
of Aristotle's idea of private property and 
common use, which they considered more suitable 
to this workaday world. They thought that 
common property was suitable for a religious 
community each member of which accepted a 
discipline, but not for those who were unprepared 
to do so. St. Thomas Aquinas held that 
private property was necessary for three reasons. 
" Firstly, because every one is more solicitous 
about procuring what belongs to himself alone 
than that which is common to all or many, since 
each, shunning labour, leaves to another what is 
the common burden of all, as happens with a 
multitude of servants. Secondly, because human 
affairs are conducted in a more orderly fashion 


if each has his own duty of procuring a certain 
thing, while there would be confusion if each 
should procure things haphazard. Thirdly, 
because in this way the peace of men is better 
preserved, for each is content with his own. 
Whence we see that strife more frequently arises 
among those that hold a thing in common and 
undividedly. The other office which is a man's 
concerning exterior things is the use of them ; 
and with regard to this a man ought not to 
hold exterior things as his own, but common 
to all, that he may portion them out to others 
readily in time of need." 

Mediaeval economists accepted private pro- 
perty as a convenient arrangement for managing 
human affairs. But they did not consider 
possession as absolute. A man held property 
in trust for the commonweal. 1 To succour the 
needy was enjoined upon them, and to with- 
hold alms under certain circumstances was to 
commit mortal sin. St. Thomas Aquinas, along 
with others, held that in case of urgent necessity 
a man might take the property of another either 
openly or secretly, and it was not to be con- 
sidered as theft. St. Ambrose says, " More 
than is sufficient for one's need is wrongfully 
held " : while St. Antonino insisted that should 
the need arise the State might take over the 
common ownership of all the forms of wealth, 

1 Since these words were written this principle has been 
defined as the principle of function by Mr. de Maeztu 'in 
Authority, Liberty, and Function in the Light of the War. 


but he regards such a State as violent and im- 
practicable, though not contrary to justice. 

The opinions of the Medievalists in this con- 
nection are interesting. If St. Antonino con- 
sidered that State ownership was impracticable, 
and mediaeval thinkers were all agreed that 
average human nature was not then sufficiently 
noble to render possible the common ownership 
of wealth, are we justified in considering it more 
practicable to-day, when the spirit of avarice 
reigns supreme, and when experience has proved 
it impossible to provide by checks and counter- 
checks against the abuses of dishonest men? 
Obviously, before common ownership is practic- 
able a change would need to come over the spirit 
of society, and if such a change came about the 
need would no longer be felt. Looked at from 
this point of view, the proposal to nationalize 
property seems to partake more of the nature 
of a protest against the monstrous injustice of 
present-day economic arrangements than a prac- 
tical administrative proposition. The experience 
of history appears to prove that the common 
ownership of land is possible within the limits 
of a village community ; and I think it would 
be possible for small local Guilds to own property 
in the form of houses, etc., and no harm would 
come. But if the Guilds were large, I feel sure 
common ownership would destroy the liberty of 
the individual. Common property ceases to be 
desirable at that point when a community 
becomes too large for the individuals who com- 


pose it to be personally well known to each other. 
Moreover, it is not desirable to forbid private 
property for another reason. Society is largely 
dependent for its vitality upon the public-spirited 
action of individuals who are in a position of 
comparative independence. Men may circulate 
new ideas though they have no property, but 
their reduction to practice depends ultimately 
upon the action of men who are economically 
independent. It is necessary to have a sure 
footing in the material world if a man is to 
affect material results. To what extent this will 
be necessary in the future it is impossible to 
say ; but there is no denying that it holds good 
to-day, and will do so for a considerable time 
to come. 

THE final test as to whether a man is a Collec- 
tivist or a Guildsman is to be found in his 
partiality for the Leisure or the Work State. 
If he favours the Leisure State, then he will be 
found to be at heart a Collectivist, while if he 
is a Guildsman he will have nothing to do 
with it. 

It is easy, of course, to understand why the 
Leisure State should have the more popular 
appeal of the two conceptions. It appeals to 
the immediate needs of the majority. More 
leisure connotes less toil, and for the majority 
who are slave-driven it appears to offer them 
immediate relief from the oppression they suffer. 
Nevertheless, I am persuaded that it is an utterly 
impossible dream so far as the majority are 
concerned, and that their salvation is not to 
be found in a policy which, accepting present 
conditions of labour, aims at reducing working 
hours to a minimum the ideal of the advocates 
of the Leisure State but rather in the humaniza- 
tion of labour which we associate with the Work 



I have associated the idea of the Leisure 
State with Collectivist ways of thinking because 
it seems to me to involve another state the 
Servile State. To me the Leisure State and 
the Servile State are complementary the one 
involves the other. I cannot conceive of a state 
of society in which everybody lived a life of 
idleness and pleasure, because the pursuit of 
pleasure inevitably leads to selfishness. " It is 
fitting," says St. Thomas Aquinas, " that there 
should be some pleasure in human intercourse, 
as it were a condiment, so that the soul of man 
may be refreshed." But this is a fundamentally 
different thing from the organization of society 
on a basis of pleasure, for pleasure, if it is to 
be really enjoyed, must not be pursued as an 
end in itself, but must come as a by-product, 
as it were, of virtuous activity. The pursuit 
of pleasure defeats its own purpose, for in the 
long run it destroys the possibility of further 
pleasure. It leads to boredom and finally to 
selfishness because, softened by delights, men 
become lazy. The very thought of work becomes 
irksome to them, and in that frame of mind 
they have neither the will nor the inclination to 
do their share of the work of the community. 
They would seek to evade their responsibilities, 
and to transfer on to the shoulders of others 
burdens which are disagreeable to them. Thus 
the Leisure State would only intensify present 
social evils, by giving permanence to a state 
of things in which the work of the community is 


not distributed equally among 1 its members, but is 
done by those whose economic necessity leaves 
them no option in the matter or, in other words, 
it leads to the Servile State. Nay, is not pre- 
cisely the pursuit of pleasure to-day the instru- 
ment which is bringing into existence the Servile 
State? The desire for wealth is, so far as the 
majority are concerned, the des'ire for pleasure 
and luxury. For a century or more the reward 
held out to labour has been its release from the 
necessity of work, and nowadays, when this spirit 
has come to pervade the whole community, 
labour is treated with a measure of callous- 
ness and brutality such as civilization never 
witnessed before. 

The civilization of ancient Greece, which 
approximated in some degree to the Leisure 
State, was based upon slavery. The Greeks 
were a logically minded people. Their ideal, in 
so far as it was formulated, was that of the 
perfect soul in the perfect body. But realizing 
that the perfection of the body was incompatible 
with manual labour, they preferred to compro- 
mise with the demands of the soul, and so they 
frankly accepted the institution of slavery, while 
they sought to justify this compromise by assert- 
ing that some men were slaves by nature. With 
them excellence was for the few, not for the 
many. The modern man is incapable of such 
cold-blooded logic. He always thinks he can 
have things both ways. He thinks it is possible 
for every one to enjoy a life of leisure and have 



servile conditions of labour abolished at the same 
time, and the reason he can entertain this idea 
is because he thinks the introduction of machinery, 
has, by increasing the possibilities o'f quantitative 
output, removed the only limitation which made 
the Greek ideal incompatible with democracy. 

But in this he is mistaken. Machinery can 
never alter the laws of morality. It is all very 
well to argue in the abstract that with the proper 
application of machinery labour might be reduced 
to three or two hours a day. But in the concrete 
things work out differently. However much in 
theory we may divorce economics from morals, 
in practice they are never so divorced. The 
two go hand in hand, and it is only by frankly 
recognizing this fact that it is possible to calcu- 
late with any degree of precision in human 
affairs. The fact that servile labour tends to 
produce servile men that it debases the cur- 
rency of labour cannot be altered. Reasonable 
pleasure has its basis in reasonable work, and 
if men are turned into machines, or are engaged 
in mechanical occupations which bring them no 
pleasure, then their life is corrupted at its roots. 
It matters little if that work be reduced to four 
or even two hours a day, the corruption will 
be there all the same, and it will corrupt the 
leisure which accompanies it. For at the centre 
of life there will be a vacuum which requires 
to be filled, and the demon of selfishness will 
enter in, for men who are not happy in their 
work will be incapable of resistance. Their 

whole thought will be fixed on the pleasures 
outside, and to secure that pleasure they will be 
found ready to sacrifice the lives of those who 
are not so fortunately placed. 

I said that the Greek States were Leisure 
States. This statement needs qualification. We 
must not forget that the Greek States were also 
military States. The practice of military exer- 
cises occupied much of their leisure, while the 
ever-constant fear of foreign invasion imposed 
on them a discipline. It was this which held 
them together. No sooner was this fear of 
invasion dispelled and the Leisure State definitely 
inaugurated than the Greek States immediately, 
fell to pieces. The final defeat of the Persian 
army at Platasa marks the beginning of the 
decline of Greek civilization. Prior to that battle 
the Greeks had lived in fear of a Persian inva- 
sion, and their whole life had been ordered to 
meet the needs of warfare. But when at last 
the Persians had been defeated the whole atmo- 
sphere changed. The growth of foreign trade 
and the luxuries which followed it everywhere 
undermined their military virtues. Relieved from 
the necessity of manual labour and without a 
.religion which, by appealing to their hearts and 
consciences, might exalt the ideal of self-restraint, 
there was no power to check them once they 
were fairly embarked on the pursuit of pleasure. 
Indeed, the history of Greece, as of Rome, demon- 
strates clearly that the Pagan ideal of self- 
sufficiency and self-assertiveness on a basis of 

sensuous enjoyment is not an ideal by which 
society can live. It could not save its followers 
from moral enervation, dissatisfaction with life, 
and corruption. Such was the end of the Leisure 
State in the past, and such, I am persuaded, 
will be the fate of the Leisure State at which 
so-called social reformers are aiming. It will 
fall to pieces from lack of any stability of 
character, for every society needs a discipline 
if it is to be stable. If it is not imposed from 
within, it will need to be imposed from without. 
But the Modernist hates the very thought of 
discipline, as, indeed, every other reality. He 
will have his deserts. 


IN bringing this analysis to a close, my immediate 
purpose will have been served if I succeed in 
impressing upon Socialists the fact that the solu- 
tion of the social problem is not quite so simple 
a matter as probably the majority have been 
accustomed to suppose that the confusion which 
has followed attempts to give practical applica- 
tion to their principles is for the most part due 
to the fact that they do not finally touch reality. 
For though it may be admitted that the present 
distribution of wealth, involving extremes of riches 
and 'poverty, is an evil of the first magnitude, 
such maldistribution is yet only the outward and 
visible sign of an inward and spiritual disease. 
Any political activity which would treat the social 
problem as a purely materialist issue is doomed 
from its first inception. 

But will come the objection : Granted that 
the social problem is as complex as I have shown 
it to be, it is, nevertheless, necessary for the 
practical purposes of reform to make a selection 
from the many problems which our society pre- 
sents, and to concentrate upon them, if anything 



is to be accomplished. To this I answer that 
there is no objection to such a selection being 
made, providing that attempts are not made to 
effect by political effort changes which can only 
follow success in other spheres of activity, and 
that the importance of other forms of activity 
be not underrated, especially such as aim at 
the stimulation of thought. The crystallization 
of the thought and practical activities of the 
movement around purely material issues is to be 
traced back to the struggle between iWilliam 
Morris and Mr. Sidney Webb and their supporters 
in the 'eighties, which decided the subsequent 
history of the movement. The issue which brought 
that struggle to a head was whether or no the 
movement should organize itself for political 
action. Morris and his supporters opposed this 
new development, insisting that, for some time to 
come, not politics but education should be the 
order of the day. But they were defeated, and 
from that day forward it became increasingly 
the policy of the movement to suppress within 
itself all forms of intellectual activity which were 
subversive to the political propaganda. Consider- 
ing the many crazy notions which in those days 
masqueraded under the cloak of Socialism, there 
may perhaps have been some justification for the 
political propagandists, and no harm might have 
come of the suppression had it been merely 
an expedient for effecting certain temporary pur- 
poses. But once the movement was fairly em- 
barked on political activity, it seemed to have 


no further use for ideas as such, with the result 
that it became first intellectually sterile and then 
politically impotent. Embarking on political 
activity before a firm foundation of clear thinking 
had been laid, compromise became inevitable. 
The demand for great and fundamental changes 
receded more and more into the background, while 
the advocacy of palliatives became increasingly 
the order of the day. To correct this tendency 
there is but one thing to be done. The movement 
must for the present abandon its political aspira- 
tions, and seek to fortify itself by a return to 
fundamentals, since, until a basis of clear thinking 
has been well and securely laid, it is impossible 
with safety to advocate practical measures at all, 
because it is certain they will be misapplied. 
Nay, until such a foundation is laid, practical 
measures remain impracticable, because their 
significance will not be understood by the 
people. Quack remedies will be more acceptable 
to them. 

Among the ideas the suppression of which 
has led to the present intellectual sterility of 
the movement is the doctrine of catastrophism. 
It is easy to understand why the Fabian Society 
sought to discredit it. If the Socialist movement 
was to enter the political arena, it could only do 
so on the assumption that existing society could 
be reformed. Catastrophism denied such a possi- 
bility. It affirmed that the disease of our society 
had proceeded so far that a cure apart from the 
total destruction of the existing social order was 


out of the question. Accordingly, it happened 
that the Fabian Society substituted evolution for 
revolution as the watchword of reform. They 
thought it a fine thing to do, but experience has 
proved the contrary. The denial of catastrophism 
not only so emasculated Socialist doctrine as to 
rob it of all virility, but strangled all new thought 
within the movement. This was just what might 
have been expected. Deny the possibility of a 
catastrophic ending of modern tendency, and the 
revolutionary spirit goes with it. The reformer 
must take existing society in its main essentials 
for granted. All that is left for him to do is 
to devise schemes for the amelioration of social 
conditions ; he cannot attack the disease at its 
source because he is no longer permitted to ques- 
tion things fundamental to the existing social 

Sufficient has perhaps been said to drive home 
the fact that if the movement is to recover its 
old time virility, it must, before all things, re- 
affirm the catastrophic doctrine. But it must 
reaffirm it with a difference, for the Marxian 
theory was only partly true. As I explained in the 
article on National Guilds and the General Strike, 
Marx was right in predicting the catastrophic end- 
ing of the industrial system, but he was wrong 
in assuming that out of the unemployed a force 
for revolution could be created. 1 Marx's error 
of judgment had a most unfortunate influence 
upon the policy of his followers, for it led them 
1 See footnote to page 56. 


to oppose all measures for the temporary allevia- 
tion of existing distress, on the assumption that 
palliatives would tend to delay the coming of 
revolution. Such a policy was inhuman, and it 
is not surprising that the majority of Socialists 
shrank from giving unqualified support to a 
doctrine so incompatible with their better feel- 
ings. But with us it will be different. For being 
of the opinion that when the revolution does come 
it will follow an impact from without, in reviv- 
ing the doctrine of catastrophism we shall 
not feel ourselves committed to such a policy, 
for palliatives would be unable to prevent its 

Such, then, is the parting of the ways. The 
choice which we have to make is whether we 
accept existing society in its main essentials in 
the belief that the evils which it has brought 
into existence may be abolished ; or whether, 
convinced that the evils are organic with the very 
structure of society, we seek to replace existing 
society by a society based upon the civilization 
of the past. If the latter be our choice, we 
shall become stronger. We shall gain in clarity 
of vision and certainty of aim. But if such be 
not the case, and we still keep on saying " We 
cannot go back," then all I can say is that we 
must go forward to increasing misery, to in- 
creasing confusion, to increasing despair ; and 
finally to that recrudescence of barbarism which 
science is to-day restoring under the mask of civi- 
lization. For no pretence that things are other- 


wise, no compromise with things as they are, 
can save us from that great and universal 
catastrophe in which the civilization of indus- 
trialism will find its inevitable ending. 

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